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Civil Society Groups Appeal To UN As Key Syria Water Station Disabled Again In Conflict Zone

Damascus, Syria

For the eighth time since October 2019, actions by Turkey and Sunni rebel allies cut water service from the Allouk (Alok) pumping station in Syria, 13 August.

While flow from the station was partially restored 23 August, potable water supply has not yet been restored to parts of Al-Hasakeh city which is under control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is considered by Turkey to be a terrorist group. The facility supplies water to as many as 800,000 people in Al-Hasakeh, Syria, including hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians and Islamic State captives. It is estimated that about half are infants and children, who are living in under-resourced camps and detention centres.

Aid agencies and officials in the autonomous administration in northeast Syria say hundreds of thousands of lives are being placed at risk in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

89 civil society organizations have noted in an “urgent appeal” to the United Nations that “Sporadic water (has) forced the population of Syria’s northeast to rely on unsafe alternatives, endangering their lives on top of their fight against COVID-19…Suspending the (Alok) water station puts the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk, since washing hands with water and [soap] is essential to protect themselves against the pandemic,” the organisations’ statement read.

The appeal goes on to say “This coincides with the increasing cases of the new Coronavirus in the region that already suffers from weak infrastructure and a shortage in medical staff, supplies, hospitals and health centers, as well as the siege imposed on the region by closing the only legitimate border crossing with Iraq to enter humanitarian aid to the people of the region, in addition to the high temperatures in the region, the highest in the world, threatening with a catastrophic humanitarian situation in light of the silence of the Global Coalition to fight ISIS as well as the Russian guarantor shy attempts that were thwarted by Turkish intransigence and its refusal to re-pump water”.

“We...condemn in the strongest terms the criminal act of the Turkish occupation state and the Syrian armed factions by cutting off the drinking water supply to Al-Hasakah which amounts to a war crime and genocide according to the Geneva Convention. Likewise, according to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, Turkey's illegal and irresponsible actions are contradictory even as an occupying power, which exposes it to the international legal issue”.

“These inhuman acts came to achieve political and military gains without taking into account the urgent humanitarian needs of the people for water. Therefore, we appeal to the United Nations and all international and humanitarian organizations in the humanitarian and relief field, the Global Coalition to fight ISIS and the Russian guarantor to intervene and pressure the Turkish occupation state to re-pump water to the people as soon as possible. And not to exploit the people's need for water and use their thirst as a weapon in its hand, and work to find an alternative and permanent solution for the Alouk station so that the people do not remain prisoners of these irresponsible acts of the Turkish occupation state and the armed Syrian factions”.

Meantime, Ignatius Aphrem II head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church, wrote to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres 20 August, calling Turkey’s actions “a crime against humanity”.

“Using water as a weapon — which is not the first time — is a barbaric act and a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights. Yet, there has been no response form the international community to this atrocity despite the constant appeal of the people of the region”, the religious leader said.

Joseph Lahdo, the co-chair of the local administration and municipalities authority in northeast Syria, has said emergency measures were underway to address the water shortage. They include digging 100 wells connected to a redistribution center in Khirbat Hammah northwest of Hasakeh. But Lahdo said this would solve only “50% of the problem”, AI Monitor reported.

Turkish state media have published counterclaims that the power station has merely been under maintenance, and blamed the Kurdish-led local authority for cuts in power to water facilities.

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