Turkey cuts Syrian water forcing Kurds to ‘run after trucks’

Turkey has cut off water to the northern Syrian province of Hasakah and is controlling the region’s supply via the Alouk water station in the Turkish-controlled Syrian border town of Ras al Ayn, Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday.

Residents of the region told AFP that interruptions in the flow of water first started in the autumn of last year, when Turkey started a military incursion into the region to push Syrian Kurdish forces away from its southern border.

“This time it’s really dragged on,” AFP cited elderly Hasakah resident Muhammad Khatar as saying. The most recent cut started three weeks ago.

“I spend the whole time running after water trucks,” 43-year-old Sheikha Majid said.

In October last year, Syrian Kurdish officials said Turkey obstructed maintenance work on the Alouk water station. As the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread in the region in March, UNICEF warned of the detrimental effects of water cuts.

Turkey responded to the criticism by saying that the Syrian government was responsible for not supplying enough power to the Alouk station to allow it to work. It also accused the armed Syrian Kurdish group, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), who were the main fighting force in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), of anti-Turkish propaganda.

“Regular maintenance works continue in the Alouk water station,” Turkey’s Defence Ministry said in a tweet on Aug. 6. “With the continuous maintenance and repair efforts, the Hasakah region is provided with water.”

“For more than 10 days, armed factions supported by the Turkish occupation have deliberately cut off water for the population,” pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency cited the Syrian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II as saying in a letter to the U.N. on Saturday.

The Patriarch accused Turkey of using water as a weapon against the semi-autonomous administration in the region, which Turkey says is connected to organisations it has designated as terrorist.

On Monday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry also accused Turkey of using water as a weapon against civilians, according to Syria’s state-run SANA news agency.

“The Turkish regime and its tools, and through a bless by the U.S. Administration and terrorists, used water as a war weapon against Syrian civilians, of women, children and elders, for inhumane political purposes, cutting water off Allouk station for 16 times during the latest months,” the ministry said, SANA reported.

“Since the Turks occupied Ras al-Ain, there have been endless rounds of negotiations over water interruptions from Alouk,” Aheen Sweid, co-director of the semi-autonomous administration’s energy authority, was cited by AFP as saying. Sweid said that the administration cut off electricity to the Turkish-held area in retaliation after 10 days without water.