Turkish-backed far right militants cut off the water to 400,000 Syrians, including tens of thousands of children, during the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports in eastern Syria. It comes at the worst possible time for people in Syria, including Kurdish and Christian minorities, who are in lockdowns due to the pandemic and now have no water. The area is already threatened by the virus because the international community has cut off aid and does not provide testing for the virus.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces defeated ISIS a year ago in eastern Syria but now millions of people who live in the area lack access to basic needs. Turkey invaded part of eastern Syria in October 2019 after the US withdrew.
According to human rights reports Turkish-backed extremists attacked civilians, executed at least one female politician in an extrajudicial killing and caused up to 200,000 people to be displaced from their homes. The extremists also threatened minority Christian communities who were recovering from ISIS.
Turkish forces occupy parts of eastern Syria near Tel Abyad but Turkey does not provide its occupied areas with many basic needs. Instead local militias are accused of looting, kidnapping and extortion. Over the last six months that has included attempts to cut off water to other parts of Syria.
On March 21 residents reported that water had been cut off from the Allouk station, affecting 460,000 people. The UN and others have recorded the same incident. People in Hassakah, and neighboring villages, under SDF control, now have no water. Some water can be brought by trucks but at a time when the WHO recommends social distancing this increasingly leads to threats of the spread of the virus.
Turkey has not provided support for areas it occupies during the crises, as coronavirus rapidly spreads in Turkey, leaving Syrian refugees and internally-displaced people, wondering what comes next. The Turkish-backed factions near Tel Abyad now control water supplies to others in Syria that they have switched off.
Turkey, a NATO ally, has not responded to the water shortage and its role in backing groups responsible for it. The Syrian regime does not provide support for Syrians in eastern Syria and with border crossings to Iraq closed due to the pandemic it is unclear how the area will continue to function well amid the crises.
US forces are now stopping movement due to the pandemic and the US is withdrawing from some areas in Iraq as it repositions. ISIS is on the rise and Russia is allegedly pressuring to take control of oil wells in eastern Syria. Turkey has also pressured Russia to cut a deal for a partition of oil resources in eastern Syria as Turkey seeks to get the US to withdraw from more locations.
A year after groups in Eastern Syria, particularly the Kurdish fighters, helped defeat ISIS, they lack even water for their homes during a global pandemic.