The Fight for Water as Turkey Repeatedly Cuts Water Supply for Thousands of People in Rojava

This article was published by the Women Defend Rojava campaign on 6 April, 2020

In an interview with Sozdar Ehmed, representative of the Institute for Water Affairs in the Hesekê region, [Women Defend Rojava] talked about the current water situation in the region in times of the Covid-19 pandemic, after the water supply was interrupted for the fifth time by Turkey.

A few days after we had done the interview, the water pipe was deliberately destroyed by a further attack by the Turkish army on Til Temir on 3 April. This led to new complications in the water supply of one of the most populous cities in North and East Syria and thus to further difficulties and dangers in view of the Corona Virus Pandemic.

1. Can you shortly tell us about the current water situation in Hesekê and what effect it has on the cleanliness and health of the society?

About 650,000 people live in Hesekê and they need 10,000 cubic meters of water every day. However we can only distribute 4,000 cubic meters using tanks. This water is only for drinking, the washing and rinsing water comes from water wells that can, if necessary, even be used for drinking. So there are many risks that affect the spread of diseases due to the lack of water.

2. What difficulties are the people having? How are the people reacting to the inhumane treatment towards them by the Turkish State?

In these times when the corona virus has spread all over the world, we face great difficulties because water is the basis for protection against the virus, but water is not available.

People have recognized, now and in the past, that Turkey is a brutal terrorist state that pursues a hostile and inhumane policy. People don’t put much pressure on us as a water institute because they know that the water station is under the control of the Turkish state and in the hands of the jihadists, which is why they have no water.

The water supply system was destroyed by a Turkish attack in Til Temir on 3 April

3. The water coming from the side of the occupying Turkish forces have been cut again, why? In your opinion, in the difficult situation the world is facing now in which the health of the people is in danger what is the goal of the Turkish state?

In the past four months, they have cut Alok water four times. Every time the water supply is cut off for a while. The last time the water was cut was on March 28th. The occupiers in Serê Kaniyê demand more electricity and use water as a pressure medium. Although they have electricity, they want more electricity and therefore cut off our water supply.

Hesekê is a large city near Turkey. If the Corona virus spreads in a large city like this, it will also spread to Turkey. If the disease spreads here, it spreads throughout the Middle East, as Heseke is neither a village nor a small town that can be easily controlled if the disease spreads.

On the one hand, Turkey is pursuing the goal of driving the people here to leave their country and cities out of thirst. Furthermore, we cannot rule out that Turkey wants the Covid-19 virus to spread here in the region.

4. Before, when the water was cut off, they wanted electricity. Now the water has been cut off again, what do they want this time?

They demand more electricity. The first time they agreed on 5 megawatts, the Turkish occupiers did not keep the agreement. According to the Institute of Electricity, they have drawn up to 23 megawatts of electricity instead of the agreed 5 megawatts.

Water station for Hesekê region

5. We read in the North Press Agency that they want 30 megawatts of electricity. How much is 30 megawatts, and how much can it be used by a family or a city? Why do they want so much electricity?

According to the Institute for Electricity, the Turkish occupiers are demanding another 30 megawatts of electricity, but it is believed that they do not want this 30 megawatts for Serê Kaniyê alone, but want to forward the electricity to Girê Spî and other areas under their occupation. But these power lines are very old lines and if you pull more than 10 megawatts, it damages both the lines and the dam’s power plant. Since the power of the lines is insufficient, they can no longer be supplied with electricity for technical reasons.

How much is 30 Megawatts? Previously, 10 megawatts of electricity was sent to Serê Kaniyê, including Til Alok, with all of its residents, which was even too much. Now you have to consider that the majority of people have fled. You want electricity for other cities too, but the power of this power line is not enough to pass on so much electricity.

6. What is your approach to these actions? We heard that you have started a new project building wells around the Hesekê area. Can you explain this project for us? What is the purpose of the project, when will the wells be functioning and how much water can it bring to Hesekê?

For our new project we are digging 50 wells, the water of which is cleaned in the water treatment station. This water is drinkable according to international standards. The wells that are available to us are not very deep, around 100 meters.

Let us assume that each of these wells delivers 15 cubic meters of water per hour, that would mean a total of 750 cubic meters of water per hour. The water from these wells is very low compared to the wells in Alok, but we can distribute this water to people so that they do not die of thirst. With this project we can distribute water to the population once a week. This project and the water that it produces are intended as a replacement. As soon as the water of the Alok water station is interrupted, we can distribute this water to the people so that they don’t die of thirst here.

At the end of March we officially started this project and set ourselves the goal of being able to distribute the water obtained from this project to the people at the end of April.

7. Is there anything else you would like to bring attention to?

We want our voice to reach the United Nations and all people. We demand that the Alok water station be removed from the control of the Turkish state and that the station comes under the control of a third independent party. If there is no political solution, it will be very difficult here and they will continue to cut off the water arbitrarily whenever they want.