Violation of the right to water in northern and eastern Syria



Geneva, March 29, 2022 – The International Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its annual report at the 49th regular session of the HRC. The report highlighted the catastrophic humanitarian and human rights record of the conflict over the past 11 years, while omitting the role played by foreign military occupation forces in these violations.

The UN International Independent Investigation Commission on Syria was established by the Human Rights Council in 2012 following the war in Syria. It presented its annual report in Geneva on 18 March 2022 at the 49th session of the Human Rights Council. CETIM participated in the interactive dialogue that followed the presentation of the Commission’s annual report. In fact, CETIM is very interested in the issue of the right to water in the North and East of Syria. In this sense, it develops articulations and advocacy initiatives at the international level, in collaboration with local organizations that fight for the respect and promotion of this fundamental right. The right to water of the populations of this region, and in particular of the peasant communities who depend on it for agriculture, is systematically violated in the framework of the military occupation of the territory by Turkey and Turkish-backed militias. This situation has devastating consequences for the fundamental rights of the population, and especially for economic, social and cultural rights.

In this regard, the Commission’s report also briefly mentions the acute water crisis taking place in the country. It points out that the country now has 40% less drinking water than it did ten years ago. However, according to the report, this crisis is caused by a combination of factors related to climate change, such as the low level of the Euphrates River, low rainfall and high temperatures. No mention is made of the role played by the Turkish military occupation. However, it is precisely the occupying forces that, by controlling springs or damming up rivers, cause enormous shortages. Access to water has also and above all been reduced by the massive destruction, deliberate or not, of water installations during the conflict, and in particular within the framework of the war led by the Turkish state.

In this sense, the CETIM presented a written declaration at the 49th session in order to draw the attention of the Council to the consequences of the military occupation of the North and East of Syria by the Turkish armed forces and the militias they support. In addition to the human rights violations linked to arbitrary detentions, the plundering of natural resources and the planting of mines and explosives in areas populated by civilians, this declaration analyzes that the occupying forces are using water as a weapon of war. CETIM recalls that the right to water is also closely linked to the rights to health, to food and to life, causing their violation by ricochet.

During the interactive dialogue on the situation in Syria, CETIM gave the floor to Aked Ibrahim, representative of Rights Defence Initiative – Syria, a Syrian organization that works with social movements and communities affected by the military occupation of the region. During his intervention, Mr. Ibrahim pointed out that the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria does not explain the real causes of the water problem in the region. The representative therefore recalled that the right to water of the populations was precisely violated by the current context of military occupation. In conclusion, he asked the Commission to investigate further the effects of the occupation on human rights, and more particularly on economic, social and cultural rights. Finally, Mr. Ibrahim called for the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish army from the region, as well as all foreign armed forces present on the ground, and for an end to support for armed militias.


Read Aked Ibrahim’s oral statement

To read CETIM’s written statement, click here

Read the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic


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