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Single title

Water Warfare

by Pia Hecher

How the Syrian Government Uses Water to Punish and Reward

The Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad uses the country’s water resources as a weapon against dissidents. The instrumentalization of water supply follows decades of its mismanagement. Rather than assuming responsibility for water scarcity and the destruction of relevant infrastructure, the government blames others.

Since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, the government has weaponized water resources by cutting off access in opposition-held areas; bombing water infrastructureand springs. Following anti-government protests in Palmyra, for instance, the government bombed the city and interrupted its water access. As one interviewee from Palmyra put it, „when Bashar al-Assad wanted revenge, he just cut off the water“. The majority of the 150 Syrian respondents interviewed for this paper identified mismanagement by authorities as the main reason for water scarcity. 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

Research Associate +961 1 388 061/62 +961 1 388 064