Talk has resurfaced in recent days in conjunction with what many see as moves toward a political resolution in Syria as the US-Russian agreement raises questions about the price Tehran is paying to guarantee its stake in the war-torn country.
For several months, media reports and statements by Syrian activists have shed light on a growing phenomenon in Syria – reports which can be summarized in one sentence: “Iran is buying Syria.”
The headline refers to the broad and systematic wave of purchases during which Iranian traders have bought a large amount of Syrian real estate in a number of cities, primarily in the center of the capital Damascus and Homs, including property belonging to those who have fled Syria.
Data obtained by the Syrian Media Organization, which has documented sales and long-term rentals to figures loyal to the regime, confirms that real estate purchases in Syria have expanded, especially since the start of June.
The reports say that the activity of businessmen loyal to the regime purchasing real estate had in the past been limited to areas of eastern Damascus, particularly the Old City, but has expanded recently in the capital and its eastern outskirts, especially the Mleiha area, including large amounts of land owned by the state, later easing purchase by Iranians by circumventing the law.
Some of the documents indicated that several hotels in the heart of Damascus – such as Al Iwan, Asia, Damascus International, Phoenicia and the Petra – have become property of the Iranian embassy, in addition to shares in the luxury Semiramis Hotel.
This does not include the Iranian embassy’s efforts to buy real estate in historic districts of Old Damascus, in the area extending from behind the Umayyad Mosque to Bab Touma, which is known as a predominantly Christian area.
The documents meanwhile point out that the Iranian government is encouraging real estate dealers from Tehran to buy property in high-end neighborhoods of Damascus and take advantage of their relationships with regime parties and register property in their names.
The accompanying analysis of these reports claim that Iran is trying to take steps in the property route to create a demographic change in Damascus, in what resembles a sustainable prospective settler project, overturning the population structure of Damascus and its environs.
According to the Sky News website, the political researcher Ghassan Ibrahim said: “The regime has nothing to offer but real estate to Iran as guarantees in exchange for the huge amounts of money it spent to support the Assad regime, and to carry out demographic change in Syria.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.