08/25/2020, 12.22
SYRIA - TURKEY
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'War crime': The Turks hold Hassakeh region in stranglehold of thirst

by Pierre Balanian

Turkish soldiers control and block the supply of water from the Alluk plant. Thirst as a weapon of war, in a period when temperatures reach 40 °. The effects on crops and animals are also of concern. Appeals to the international community and to Pope Francis.

Hassakeh (AsiaNews) - A "war crime": this is how the population of Hassakeh in north-eastern Syria defines what Turkey is doing. Since Ankara's soldiers occupied Ras Al Ein in an attempt to curb the autonomy of the Kurdish region in Syria, the Hassakeh region has been deprived of drinking water, condemning hundreds of thousands of civilians to thirst.

Turkey slowed the supply of water from the Alluk water plant over two months, cutting it off completely 24 days ago. In the center of Hassakeh, water stopped arriving 11 days ago; much earlier in the northern neighborhoods and surrounding countryside.

In a period of high temperatures - up to 40 degrees - and with the rapid spread of Covid-19, this weapon used by Ankara against the Russians and the Syrian government holds civilians hostage in their hands.

“They are Turkish methods” says Firas El Zahi, “Remember what they did to the Armenians in the death marches and deportations during the genocide: they made them die of hunger and thirst. They haven't changed their methods. They are the same Turks, but now we are the victims "

"I shower with dirty water once a week - Firas swears - it's very hot and I need at least two showers a day; there is the coronavirus and they say that you need to wash your hands regularly ... But if there is no water, what do we wash them with? With the sand?".

Since Turkey closed the water supply pump as a punishment, the local cisterns are now completely empty, the house taps unused, no water to drink, to cook or wash. The wealthy procure water tanks from outside of town, which they buy at exorbitant prices that are impossible for poorer inhabitants. In any case, drinking water traders are not able to guarantee tanks to everyone anyway.

According to the Hassakeh Water Directorate, since Turkey and the pro-Turkish militias occupied the Alluk Water Plant on 9 October 2019, this is the thirteenth time that there has been no water. “It's a war crime,” says Mahmoud Alakleh, director of the Hassakeh water company, “in the beginning they reduced the flow from 100,000 cubic meters to 20,000; now they want us to die of thirst”.

The talks between the Russians and the Turks continue without however leading to any solution. Trying to resist Turkish blackmail, the Kurdish Autonomous Administration operated 25 artesian wells at the Al Hemmeh power plant and supplied minimal quantities of water, however insufficient (about 10% of the province's needs). But in reality there are no alternatives to the Turkish-controlled Alluk power plant.

In the global media blackout, through social media, the inhabitants of Hassakeh are launching desperate appeals to the international community, asking for Turkey to be punished for this crime and with due pressure to bring water to civilians.

"We refuse to be hostages of the expansionist aims of the Turkish sultan" reads a comment on the page "Hassakeh is strangled by thirst". Everyone talks about thirst, the effects on people and agricultural production. Soon there will be a lack of water for fruit and vegetables, in addition to the thirst that threatens the death of animals (cows, sheep and chickens).

One of the site administrators says: "Our aim is to get our voices to international organizations, to the UN to put pressure on Turkey and prevent it from using water as a weapon of blackmail, using us as shields".

Through the "blackmail", Turkey wants to obtain surrender from the Russian and Syrian sides to ease the pressure on the points under their control in the north of Aleppo, in Hamah and Idlib.

Hrant Abdallah, a Christian from Al Hassakeh contacted by AsiaNews, says: “The whole city has been without drinking water for days. There are children, the elderly, sick people, Covid, the heat and we all suffer. Personal hygiene has become a luxury; drink drinking water too. Previously, a bottle of water was bought for 50 Syrian pounds; now it costs 150 lire. This is all intolerable. I don't understand why the world ignores us: we are dying every day, aren't we human beings? Why have they forgotten us? I ask the Pontiff to pray for us and to intervene to put an end to our suffering”.

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