The regime reaps benefits from dead Syrians as it demands bribes for issuing death statements, according to a new report.

In the spring of 2018, the Syrian regime began issuing death statements at an unprecedented rate in an apparent change of policy. Until then, the regime was known for refusing such documents to tens of thousands of Syrians.  

A report by the Syrians For Truth & Justice (STJ) says the Syrian regime deprived people of death statements and used the public documents to 'blackmail' them, particularly those who lived in the opposition-held areas.

The proceedings such as determining heirship or revoking a marriage are all linked to the possession of death statements. In theory, the families can pick up the death statements of their kin from the Civil Registry Office. But in practice, the process reportedly turns into an emotional and financial nightmare, especially for the families the regime claims of being involved in the 2011 Syrian revolution or even remotely linked to it, the report says.

Samar al Hassan is among those who was denied her husband’s death statement. After a regime air strike killed him, Samar moved to a makeshift camp for internally displaced people in Idlib. She lives in poverty and single-handedly looks after her children. She desperately needs access to her husband’s legal will, but she is unable to receive it. The regime has refused her the death statement.

The families loyal to Bashar al Assad's regime don't face such discrimination, however. The regime officials hand over the bodies and provide death statements to their kin without any hassle. 

On the other hand, the rules for those who have a history of opposing the regime are different. In official records, the cause of dissidents' death is not registered. Their bodies are buried in mass graves and the families are deprived of saying goodbye to the departed. 

Since the beginning of the war in 2011, at least  82,000 Syrians have disappeared. The regime's policy of lowering men into mass graves has made many families wonder whether their missing members have been buried in a similar fashion. Hundreds of families want to learn where those graves are. 

“With the rising death toll in Syria, STJ believes that an accurate, transparent, and non-discriminatory approach must be adopted by the State when issuing death statements and certificates without hiding or altering the truth,” the STJ report said.

“The families of deceased Syrians should not be forced to choose between receiving a falsified, untrue, or incomplete death document or not receiving one at all,” it continued. 

According to the United Nations, tens of thousands of people who disappeared since the beginning of the war are still missing.

This means, they’re either in notorious Syrian regime prisons, or they’re already dead.

While some die naturally under detention, thousands of people are tortured, starved, sexually assaulted, and killed in these facilities. 

Pay up for the collapsing economy 

The UN says, after a decade of war, the regime is using the disappearance and detention to suppress dissent in the country. Every now and then, the protests still break out in regime-held areas. Expressing dissent is treated as a crime in regime-held areas, which is going through a severe economic crisis.  In light of the poverty line touching 90 percent, even the regime-supporters are becoming critical of Assad. 

It's not just the death certificates that the regime is using to fill its pockets with. Issuing a Syrian passport has become another source of corruption for the regime. 

Although the Syrian passport is the third-lowest ranking passport in the world, it is now among the world’s most expensive ones. Syrians have to pay up to around $300 to renew their passports after the regime dramatically increased the costs. 

Syrians not only have to pay the passport renewal fee but also bribe fixers and officials to get their applications processed. They also have to pay the border fee, which is an additional $100.

In Syria, it's mandatory for every citizen to join the army at the age of 18. Those who fail to join the armed forces are given a buyout option of paying $8,000. If they don't, their properties are seized. 

Syrian Emergency Task Force, a US-based NGO, told TRT World that the families who’re not notified of the deaths and still hope that their loved ones are alive also pay extravagant bribes to find out their fate, or to be able to get them out of the detention centers. Even though it’s unclear if the Syrian regime directly organises the chain of bribes in detention centers, the practice is widespread, the NGO said.

Source: TRT World