Location: Lebanon
Profession: Land Rights Advocate

Meet Tala Kammourieh.  Tala is a land rights champion, in disguise! Not your traditional land rights advocate, Tala studied architecture at the American University of Beirut as well as Urban Planning at the University of Illinois.  Since early February 2017, she has been working with UN Habitat Lebanon on housing policy and housing, land and property rights issues for Syrian refugees. Prior to this, she worked on developing housing solutions for vulnerable populations in Lebanon, with the Affordable Housing Institute based in Boston.

For Tala, housing land and property rights are understudied in Lebanon and they urgently need more attention! Lebanon’s brutal 15-year civil war resulted in large scale displacement within the country, in both rural and urban settings.  The post war reconstruction project which followed in Beirut’s city center had major implications on the original owners and tenants in that area and their future access to their properties. The “informal settlements” which were built incrementally outside the traditional legal framework are currently housing thousands of low-income Lebanese, migrants and refugees.

“This is an area that is so rich and has been studied in pieces under various themes but not comprehensively from a housing, land and property rights lens. Doing so would give us the opportunity to unfold many layers of our urban development and the root causes of conflict that would potentially arise over land.”

Tala also believe that women hold the key to important change with regards to this!

Lebanese women’s housing, land and property rights are of particular importance and an integral part of the bigger fight for women’s rights in Lebanon. In Lebanon, there’s no unified civil status law that equates all citizens, instead laws concerning personal status vary between different religions and sects, creating grave inconsistency in matters regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody, etc. In order to protect women’s housing, land and property rights, the different systems need to be aligned under a civil status law that does not differentiate based on gender and religion. Even though Lebanese laws don’t have any restrictions in principle over women’s right to access or own and lease land and property, other laws such as the personal status laws, can prove to be barriers in women’s housing, land and property rights.  Many civil society groups are active in advocating for women’s rights and it’s important to put housing, land and property rights at the forefront of this debate.”

This story was submitted by the Land Portal. Read the Land Portal’s previous interview with Tala here.