Water Used as a Weapon for Erdogan’s Fight in Syria

Water resources, this is the strategy of a new Turkish war, launched against 460,000 inhabitants of Al-Hassaka city and three camps in the region. The Water Directorate in the city of Hasaka belonging to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria announced that the Turkish army together with the Syrian opposition factions loyal to it had stopped pumping water from the Alouk water station, the seventh cutoff since October 2019.

According to consecutive information, the Water Directorate in Hasaka stated that the local authorities in Ras al-Ain had deliberately stopped the work of the station on Saturday, August 15. It indicated that the station workers were not able to reach the station to repair it. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross called all parties to adhere to international law, protecting the main sources of water, so all inhabitants can have it fairly.

The Hasaka Water Directorate had informed Russian forces of the water shortage in the region. The Russian side confirmed that they had discussed the issue with Turkish officials and are awaiting an official response.

Natalie Bekdash, the representative for media and communication at the International Committee of the Red Cross was quoted by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that they are working, in coordination with the Syrian Red Crescent and the Hasaka Water Directorate to find solutions to alleviate the suffering, including repairing networks and bringing water by tanks to the camps and the rest of the shelters.

“When the water was cut from the Alouk station, there were 50 drinkable water tanks in the city, the Red Cross alongside the Red Crescent supervise the operations of filling them with drinkable water for emergency,” Bekdash added.

Despite that, there is constant concern about people’s ability to have access to water, especially with the spread of the Corona pandemic, Bekdash explained, pointing out that people need large quantities of clean water to face the risks of the Coronavirus spread.

Since the city of Ras Al-Ain was controlled by the Turkish army and affiliated Syrian opposition factions following the operation „Peace Spring“ at the beginning of October 2019, the Alouk water station became a pressure card between Ankara and Moscow. Both sides agreed on pumping the water from the station to the city of Hasaka, in return for supplying the Mabrouka electrical station in Ras al-Ain with electricity for the areas controlled by Turkey affiliated factions.

The Alouk station is the only source for providing drinking water to more than 460,000 people living in the area. It supplies Abu Rasin town, Tal Tamr district, Hasaka city and its countryside. These areas are already suffering from scarcity of water. The station also supplies three camps, including Washokani camp, which is a home for about 12,000 displaced people fled Ras al-Ain, and the Areesha camp for people displaced from Deir Ezzor, with a population of about 13,000. As for the Al-Hol camp, it is a home for about 68,000, where thousands of displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees live in, in addition to foreigners who lived in areas controlled by ISIS in the past.

Suzdar Ahmed, a Kurdish official, noted that the station was pumping to the Autonomous Administration’s control areas one third of the quantities agreed upon according to the understandings of Ankara and Moscow. “For eight months, three pumping stations out of eight have been operating, with the aim of keeping all areas suffering from a scarcity of drinking water. The spread of the Corona pandemic increases the suffering and challenges in the region,” Ahmed said.

In an extensive report published by the Daraj website, it is expected that Turkey will control more than 80% of the Euphrates water in case the water project is completed, which is the largest project of its kind in the world that extends over the administrative borders of 8 Turkish provinces.

Turkey diverted the natural course of the Tigris River into the agricultural lands of the village of Ein Dewar in the city of Derek. By doing that, Turkey included more than a thousand hectares of Syrian lands to Turkey in 2016, and the Turkish gendarmes prevented Kurdish farmers from using the river’s water to irrigate their agricultural lands, which is the most important source of water used for agriculture in the region. Turkey has lowered the water level of the Euphrates River to 321 degrees, which is the lowest water level for generating electric power in Syrian dams. By doing this, Turkey violates the agreements and treaties signed between Syria and Turkey, which stipulate that Syria would receive a share of 450 tanks every second.

The Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of the Syrian regime launched an urgent appeal to save the Roman Bridge from collapsing and submerging in water after diverting the river’s course. In its statement, the directorate said that changing the natural course of the river towards the Syrian lands in the Ain Dewar region threatens to submerge historical archaeological sites in the region.

The Turkish gendarmes fired more than once on Kurdish farmers, wounding many of them, and preventing them from approaching and plowing their lands, the only source of livelihood for them in the region.

According to the report, during the first days of the Turkish military operation in Afrin, Turkish warplanes bombed with several missiles a drinking water purification station in the vicinity of the town of Sharran, northeast of Afrin city center.

The aircraft also bombed the Maidanki dam three times in a row, before taking control of it. The Maidanki dam is 12 kilometers far from Afrin, and it is located on the Afrin River, about two kilometers from the town of Medanaki. The dam was built to prevent floods resulting from rain. It can save more than 15 million cubic meters of water annually, which the cities of Afrin, Azaz and surrounded villages benefit from.

Later, the Turkish army diverted the drinking water stream from Afrin to the regions of Azaz, after taking control over of the sterilization and water pumping station in the village of Matina. Afrin’s share of water was pumped to Azaz and its countryside, and the pumping to Afrin and its countryside was completely cut off. Water was pumped from the pumping station on the Maidanki Dam, and was then sterilized at the sterilization station in Matina village. The number of water pumps that supplied the city of Afrin is 5, and almost all of them have stopped supplying the city with water.

When the water supply to Afrin was almost completely cut off, civilians were depended on underground water wells in residential neighborhoods. Those wells in turn do not meet the daily consumption needs, as the consumption in Afrin and the surrounding villages is about 40 thousand cubic meters.

Bombing Water Stations in Sri Kanya

On March 19, Turkish artillery bombed the Alouk water and power station in the city of Sri Kanyea, rendering it out of service and cutting off water in the entire city of Hasaka and its countryside. Turkey also targeted repair workshops that attempted to repair the station to resume its work, many workers were injured. Artillery also bombs power plants and water stations in the city of Sri Kanya, which supplies a number of cities with water.

Three days before, Turkish warplanes bombed two large water tanks during its war on Afrin. Those water tanks were supplying the residents of the Mahmoudiya neighborhood and Kawa Al-Haddad in Afrin city center, after the water was cut off in the city.

The Turkish government cut off the water of the Balikh River, the second largest river in Syria after the Euphrates, and allocated Syria’s share of the river to irrigate agricultural lands in Turkey. The length of the river is more than 110 km, starting from Turkey and entering Syria through the Ain Al-Arous region to the border city of Tal Abyad.

Water cuts to major dams in Syria threaten the lives of more than 2 million locals.

“When ISIS was controlling two dams in northern Syria, namely the Rojava Dam (formerly Tishreen) and the Hurriya Dam (formerly the Baath), controlling large areas of Raqqa, Hasaka, Aleppo and Deir Ezzor, these two dams were the only source for ISIS to supply its control areas with electricity,” the Daraj website quotes Akram Suleiman, director general of the region’s electricity.

“When the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control over the dam, we found that the amount of water coming from the Turkish side into Syria was 800 cubic meters, while Syria’s share of regional water was 500 cubic meters, meaning that during ISIS’s control, the water that reached the dams was greater than the basic share of Syria, and when SDF took control of the three dams, the Turkish government reduced the amount of water to 200 cubic meters. That reduced the quantities of energy generated from these dams, supplying Hasaka, Manbij, Tabqa, Kobani, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa,” he added. Water cuts have damaged agricultural crops, as several branch rivers dried up. The water of the Euphrates Dam is a main source for several regions, which has created a real water crisis in the region.

The Lake of Tishreen Dam stores more than 1.9 billion cubic meters of water with six turbines, while the Euphrates Dam stores 14.6 billion cubic meters of water, containing eight turbines. Of those turbines, only 3 are operating.

GAP Project

Turkey is working on the implementation of the GAP project, an acronym for southeast Anatolia. The project consists of 22 huge dams, the most important are the dams of Ataturk, Kayban, Karakia, Barajil and Qum Qayam, in addition to a storage project and electric power plants on an area of 1.7 million hectares of agricultural land. The project’s storage capacity is estimated at more than 100 billion cubic meters, which is nearly three times the storage capacity of the dams of Syria and Iraq combined together.

In an article published on the Daraj website on March 14 this year, Khaled Suleiman says: “Water is the most powerful weapon for suppressing the revolutions and aspirations of the Kurds, not only in Turkey, but also in other countries. Destroying Afrin Dam and the bartering for Tigris River water are evidence of this policy. At the beginning of the war on Afrin, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu visited Baghdad and offered Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to suspend the water storage in the huge Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River in return for Iraq’s participation in the war against the PKK. For the same reason, the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Army, Khulsi Akar, visited Baghdad earlier this month. After the visit of Akar to Bagdad, Cavusoglu revealed Baghdad’s willingness to cooperate with Turkey in the war against the PKK, meaning that bartering of Tigris water will continue. In short, the new Erdogan policy is as follows: one eye is turned to invest in religion, nationalism and populism and burn, where he is ready to burn everything for his ambitions; another eye is on water that has become a weapon of thirst and bargaining, rather than being a natural right for everyone.

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