Attacking farms won't break the Kurds in Syria
Since the fall of their last bastion in Baghouz, Daesh is understandably working on new tactics to gather strength.
More than 50,000 hectares of wheat, barley, and lentil crops were torched this month in northern Syria. Rojava was the most affected, the Kurdish autonomous area that has the largest wheat reserves in the country.
Daesh has claimed responsibility for igniting 13 fires. It was done to punish the 'infidels', they say.
Attacking these fields is a new way to sow terror and is definitely a calculated move to further deteriorate living conditions in the region. Nearly six million people need food aid, and torching of fields will make the situation more precarious.
The fields are often set on fire at night, when people are sleeping. Thousands of hectares go up in flames fast.
Since the defeat of Daesh and the fall of its last bastion in Baghouz, the extremist group is understandably working on new tactics to gather strength. The hypotheses explaining the new kind of attacks vary. Some analysts think this is Daesh's strategy to demonstrate its new capacities for harm, while others claim there could be several other suspects, too, such as the Syrian regime forces, who are resorting to such acts to force the Kurds to collaborate with them. Turkey and its allies can also be counted among the list of suspects. They want to weaken the Kurds and put them in a vulnerable situation for their own gains. Nevertheless, all of the aforementioned suspects are well aware of the role that agriculture plays for farmers.
According to an article published by Al Monitor, written by Lamar Erkendi, on May 29, 2019, the Turkish forces reportedly fired incendiary weapons on May 29 toward agricultural lands in the village of Abu Al Soun near Sari Kani city on the Syrian-Turkish border, setting fire to 25 hectares of agricultural land.
Besides fuelling financial and agrarian tensions, these fires can also provoke sectarian bickering between Arabs and Kurds, particularly in Raqqa and Manbij which are always sensitive to such incidents and each person can easily become a suspect.
Hanane Othman, President of the Newroz Cultural and Social Association, notes, "The torching of the crop fields in northern Syria is sending a message to the Kurdish community to think and reevaluate if the Kurdish autonomous administration is able to protect them or their properties." Othman explained that the self-administration did a field study in order to compensate all those who were affected by the fire.
"Despite that Daesh claimed the responsibility for torching some fields. Through the pages on the Internet, their sleeping cells, the extremist group has been asking its fighters and sympathisers to burn the Kurdish fields during harvest time. However, the Kurdish autonomous administration and the Kurdish population believe several parties among them Turkey's intelligence are behind those acts, and it is not merely Daesh," Othman told the Khaleej Times.
The political analyst, Baraa Sabri, said: "No one is sure who is really behind the fires, but many think the Syrian regime or the Turks or even Iran could be to blame. It should be recalled that an unlimited number of fires are due to natural conditions such as electricity, cigarettes butts, and mismanagement."
Until now, farmers have endured losses of approximatively around two billion Syrian pounds (around $4 million). While the investigations are still going on to find the root cause or determine the perpetrators, precautions are taken to avoid more of such mishaps.
Several YPG fighters and a dozen Kurdish citizens have died fighting these fires. There is an urgent need of water tankers and helicopters that can deliver water from the air in this region.
It might take some time to investigate the incidence. Meanwhile, the Kurds must stick together. It is important now, more than ever, and they must prove once again to the world that they are resilient and that nothing can break them.
Christiane Waked is a Political analyst based in Beirut