Women in NE Syria guard wheat crops against possible fires

This report by Nalin Ali was published by North Press Agency on 5 June, 2023

Hussein stands for long hours under the sun at noon and guards crops on the main road fearing fires that might scorch through harvests. Sara Hussein, 40, IDP from the village of Abu Rasin in the countryside of Hasakah, northeast Syria, lives in Washokani camp in Hasakah, describes protecting the crops as a “nice feeling.”

Hussein, along with other women, stands and watches over the crops on the main road between the city of Qamishli, northeast Syria, and Hasakah and prevents anyone from approaching or throwing cigarette stubs or things that might cause a fire in the farmlands. Even though she does not own land or benefit from the crops, but “protecting the crops is everyone’s duty,” she told North Press. “If the harvest is damaged, it will affect everyone because everyone in the region here depends on agriculture,” she added.

The woman lives outside of her city in an IDP camp and suffers, like others, from dire economic conditions. “Therefore, we are the most affected if any damage occurs in the harvest this year,” she noted.

At the end of May, large fires completely burned through a wheat field and parts of farmlands near the field in a town in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor Governorate, eastern Syria.

Also in May, several fires broke out and scorched through large spaces of land cultivated with wheat, estimated at 230 dunums in several areas in the countryside of Kobani, northern Syria, in addition to 300 dunums of harvested land.

Lava Abdulaziz, a young woman in her twenties, stands for continuous hours at noon guarding harvests on the main road between Qamishli and Hasakah to prevent any damage. She recalls the fires that happened in the past years that caused losses in crops, unemployment, and lack of economic revenue. Abdulaziz thinks it is her duty, like other women, to protect the harvest from any emergency.

Ghazala Dawood, an administrator in the Community Protection Units- women division, affiliated with Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), told North Press that they have been protecting the harvests for almost a month. They organized groups and each group is responsible for guarding the crops in an area.

One of the tasks of the Community Protection Units – women division [HPC-Jin] is to protect the cities and villages, and it is the responsibility of each person joining these units to protect the village or neighborhood they live in. “It is our duty to protect private property of the region’s people and prevent any damage from happening to them,” Dawood added. She noted that they guard the crops in the morning shift until 6 pm whereas the men take the night shift.