The relinquishment of inheritance involves an agreement between heirs before a Sharia judge in which one or more of them gives up their share in exchange for compensation. The rules for real estate contracts apply to the relinquishment of inheritance, which must be done with the consent of all parties involved. In many cases, however, women are coerced into relinquishing their inheritance due to customary, familial, and marital pressures, causing violations of their housing, land, and property rights.
Nawal, a 65-year-old retired schoolteacher from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, was displaced by the war and has been living in the Rural Damascus governorate since 2012. Nawal’s father owned an apartment in the Mazzeh district of Damascus, which was passed down to his children upon his death in 1990. Facing pressure from her family, Nawal relinquished her share of the inheritance to her brothers in exchange for SYP 1.5 million, which would be paid to her in installments over the next 20 years.
The value of that apartment today has increased to SYP 400 million, which brings Nawal’s brothers a sizable monthly income through tenants, she tells The Syria Report. Meanwhile, Nawal lives in a small apartment in Rural Damascus and finds it difficult to afford both rent and the rising cost of living with her retirement pension, which is her sole source of income. She feels that her agreement to relinquish her inheritance should have come with a guarantee that she be compensated with a percentage of the rental payments that her brothers currently receive from their tenants.
Nawal’s story is not an isolated one. In some cases, male heirs may take advantage of relinquishment of inheritance agreements and sideline their sisters from inheritance agreements without any compensation.
Nadia, a widow in her 40s who does not have children, tells The Syria Report that she was pressured by her family to lie before the Sharia judge that she had received financial compensation for relinquishing her part of the real estate inheritance.
Before the agreement, Nadia’s part of the inheritance had been 200 shares of a large real estate property in the Al-Zahireh district of Damascus. In 2019, her brothers agreed among themselves to sell the property that their father had passed down to them so that they could pay the fees excusing their young male children (residing outside Syria and who are wanted for military service) from mandatory military service.
They sold the property in 2021, with Nadia’s share valued at around SYP 100 million, but refused to give Nadia her rightful share of the money, claiming that her work in the clothing trade made her financially self-sufficient. Nadia, however, says she remains convinced that the real reason they never paid her is that her brothers believe male heirs are more entitled to the inheritance than she is as a widow with no children.