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Displacement Caused by Thirst How does cutting off Al-Hasakah’s water cause potential displacement of the population?

From the outbreak of the war in Syria, the various Syrian military factions; the opposing and loyal to the Syrian regime, used different forms of violations and extortion against civilians, to achieve political gains and put pressure on military opponents to control additional geographical areas. They even came to weaponize potable water sources to starve thousands of civilians in conflict zones. In addition, turning them into paramilitary targets, subjected to deadly water starvation, in areas that suffer mainly from the scarcity of water sources, and the lack of alternative investment mechanisms, such as water harvesting by moisture, and the intelligent use of groundwater. Not to mention the fact that the entire region has experienced years of drought. It was culminated by the Syrian war, which basically destroyed the underdeveloped infrastructure, and resulted in internal displacement that exceeded the capacity of the internal Syrian cities to host the displaced. Then came the Covid-19 crisis, which silently claimed the lives of the people in the absence of attention from the international community that left the people in Northeastern Syria to their fate, lacking any guarantees to live in light of these capacities. The inhabitants of the city of Al-Hasakah are in search of scarce drops of water.

The catastrophe is beyond the capacity of this report to define.

In 2015, the Syrian opposition factions blew up the Al-Fijah Spring to pressure the Syrian regime to stop its military operations targeting the countryside of Damascus Governorate. Also, water was used as a condition in the negotiations; as the water of Ain al-Fijah was pumped to the governorate of Damascus in exchange for the implementation of a truce agreement with the Syrian regime. Jabhat al-Nusra cut off the water to all residential areas that the regime controlled in Aleppo city, and stipulated the cessation of airstrikes to restart water pumping. Likewise, the Syrian regime cut off electricity to water pumps in the northern countryside of Aleppo governorate, during the control of the Islamic State Organization (ISIS).

Since 2018, Turkey has weaponized water in its war against the Kurds in Syria to implement ethnic cleansing and demographic change projects in the Syrian Kurdish cities bordering the Turkish borders. While advancing to occupy the city of Afrin, Turkey cut off the water supply to the city. The local population was starved and therefore used wells to get water by distributing it through water tanks. Turkey also has repeatedly targeted water pumping stations in the cities of Qamishlo/Qamishli and Serekaniye/Ras al-Ain. Since the occupation of the cities of Serekaniye/Ras al-Ain in Al-Hasakah governorate 2019 and Gire Spi/Tal Abyad in Raqqa governorate, Turkey has cut off the water of the Allouk station, which supplies the entire city of Al-Hasakah and its countryside and the displacement camps located in the southern countryside of the governorate. As well, it has weaponized water to expand its control points in the governorate, and in negotiations with the Russian forces, forcing the local population to submit to Turkish dictates and inciting them against the local authorities in the governorate.

Turkey’s continuous water cut-off forced the local residents of Al-Hasakah to get water through water tanks that transport water from the governorate’s cities to the city center, and to dig water wells in front of their houses to secure their needs. Various diseases have emerged and affected the population, especially children because the groundwater in Al-Hasakah city is bitter and contains high levels of salt making it unpotable. Although the majority of the people used this water for necessities other than drinking, some of them used it for drinking for economic reasons related to the inability to purchase water from tanks coming from other cities, or because of the permanent lack of water from those tanks.

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