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Opinion and Editorial

Save Syrians from Turkey's water war

Christiane Waked
Filed on August 29, 2020

Water supply has also been cut to the main hospital in the cantonal capital of Al Hasakeh, which was converted into an emergency station for the Covid-19 patients

Once again, the Turkish government shows no mercy or ethics when it comes to playing politics in Syria. At a time of the Covid-19 pandemic when empathy and compassion towards humanity are much needed, Turkey continues to oppress the Syrians in the worst way possible. 

Nearly one million Syrian citizens, mainly Kurds living in Hasakah governorate in northern Syria, do not have access to water as Turkish soldiers and the Syrian army have shut down Elok's water system in the east of the city Ras Al Ain, cutting water supply to the Hasakah region. 

Since October last year, Turkey has captured several areas in the northern countryside of Hasakah as well as Kurdish controlled territories. The Elok water station is near the border town of Serekaniye, which has been under the control of Turkey and its proxies since October 2019.

This is the eighth time that the water has been cut since Turkish forces took control of the station in the northern countryside of Hasakah. It puts pressure on residents in the SDF-held areas, jeopardising innocent and vulnerable civilians lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Water supply has also been cut to the main hospital in the cantonal capital of Al Hasakeh, which was converted into an emergency station for the Covid-19 patients.

Hanan Othman, head of the Nowruz Social Cultural Association of the Lebanese Kurds, told Khaleej Times: "Now thirst is really threatening the population in Al Hassakah region, and Turkey and the forces that are related to them are cutting the supply of water to Hassakah to twist the arm of the Social Democratic Forces (SDF) and force them to give oil and electricity to the Turkish backed forces. But the SDF and the Kurds are unlikely to give in to such tactics. They have found alternative sources to pump water for the people."

Meanwhile, Russians and Turks are negotiating to re-pump drinking water into the area that supplies the city of Al Hasakah and other areas in countryside of the city.

Since its intervention in northern Syria, Turkey has been cumulating its exactions against the international law. For a country that is a member of the Nato since 1952, this is unacceptable and should not pass without sanctions.

Now, water can be brandished as a weapon of war and Turkey is using it to its advantage. The targeting and the destruction of hydraulic works, whether dams, desalination plants, or other infrastructure, can cause a humanitarian and health crisis throughout the region.

The international community should urge Turkey to not weaponise water against the civilians. Turkey should be held accountable for its actions that can cause a humanitarian crisis due to the damage caused to any hydraulic station.

The international community must document any action that deprives civilians of water as a war crime. People should be guaranteed a safe access to this important resource as a fundamental human right, which for now is beyond limits for the population of north-eastern Syria.

Environmental security is essential for a post-conflict society and water is vital to invest in reforestation, agriculture, waste management, water conservation etc.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut


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