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Water Warfare

von Pia Hecher

How the Syrian Government Uses Water to Punish and Reward

The Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad weaponizes the country’s water resources. The instrumentalization of water follows decades of mismanagement of the country’s water resources, which worsened the severity of droughts. Rather than assuming responsibility for water scarcity and the destruction of water infrastructure, the government blames others.

Since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, the government has used water as a weapon by cutting off access in opposition-held areas; bombing water infrastructure and springs. Following threats against anti-government protesters in Palmyra, for instance, the government interrupted the city’s water access and bombed Palmyra. As one interviewee put it, „when Bashar al-Assad wanted revenge, he just cut off the water“. The majority of the 150 respondents interviewed for this paper identified mismanagement by authorities as the main reason for water scarcity in modern-day Syria. The government in turn has blamed “terrorists” and climate change for environmental deterioration and water scarcity, and presented itself as the only entity that can safeguard Syria’s water resources. International organizations and governments cooperating with the Syrian regime to rebuild water infrastructure should make equal access to water a precondition for funding.


David Labude

David Labude

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