Is Turkey weaponising Syria's water supplies? - DW

Frequent and increasing water outages in northern Syria, where Turkey controls swathes of land, is sparking questions about the country’s plans to destabilise the region, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle said on Sunday.

In Syria’s Kurdish-governed region of Al-Hasakah around one million people have had their water supplies cut off around 20 times over the past year, it said.

Several military incursions have given Turkey control of parts of northern Syria, including the predominantly Kurdish region Afrin, as well as territory running from Azaz to Al-Bab and Jarablus. The country has also maintained a presence in the northwestern Idlib region since Oct. 2019.

"This is a humanitarian disaster," Sara Kayyali, a Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch, told DW.

Some parts of the Al-Hasakah region are experiencing the eighth straight day without water, DW said. This followed the cutting of water flowing from the Alouk reservoir that began when Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel proxies took charge of Idlib.

"Since then, a cornerstone of humanitarian capabilities has been repeatedly cut off, and water outages create ramifications across the entire population," according to Kayyali.

Damascus points the finger at Turkey being responsibility to the water outages, but Turkey has denied obstructing water supplies to areas in northern Syria and accused the Kurdish militias and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) forces for the cuts.

"Turkey denies the accusation of cutting water to the region and says the Alouk station has merely been under maintenance and faces a lack of electricity from a dam not under Turkish control," according to Güney Yıldız, a political analyst and IPC-Stiftung Mercator Fellow at the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

"On the other hand, Turkey openly declares its intention [in Turkish media — Editor's note] to eradicate the administrations set up in northeast Syria and is most probably willing to use various means to accomplish that. Destabilizing the region is part of that strategy," he added.

DW said the head of media and communications for the Turkish presidency, Fahrettin Altun, had not yet responded to questions on the allegations.

According to Charles Flynn, a researcher at the region's Rojava Information Center, Turkey may be motivated by "the threat of an independent Kurdish region.’’UNICEF's representative in Syria, Fran Equiza, has been warning since March of the consequences of leaving one million people without water, DW said. 

"The interruption of water supply during the current efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease puts children and families at unacceptable risk. Hand washing with soap is critical in the fight against COVID-19," Equiza said.
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