Wednesday, June 26

Apocalyptic, arson-driven wildfires continue to ravage farmland in N.E. Syria

Smoke from burning crop fields in the village of al-Zahriya. Source: Abd al-Ilah Mohammed

Could the Israelis help? Send in fire-fighting planes? Yes. Americans, Canadians, Europeans, even Australians could do the same. But they won't. 

Not until what was done to Syrians befalls peoples in those countries will they begin to understand the horrors they helped unleash on Syria. As for the vaunted Christian compassion -- I'm waiting to hear any hour from the Pope calling on nations to help fight the fires. I've been waiting for many days.

As to the perpetrators -- early reports designated Islamic State, but by now the situation has been politicized and so fingers are pointing everywhere. 

Fires consume thousands of hectares of farmland in northeast Syria; No end in sight
By Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim
June 24, 2019
Syria Direct

Amman- The fires burning in northeast Syria have entered their second month, consuming more than 40,000 hectares of farmland and claiming lives in a region heavily dependent on agriculture for its livelihood.

“The firetrucks from the Autonomous Administration reached my father’s land after we called dozens of times. But [by that point] everything was already gone,” Shereen Deireky, a 30-year-old farmer living on the eastern outskirts of the city of Qamishli, told Syria Direct.

Deireky’s wheat and barley crops had been reduced to ashes by the time firetrucks arrived.

The Agricultural and Economic Ministry of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria estimated the fire had burned more than 40,000 hectares and caused approximately 19 billion Syrian Lira in damage (around $35 million) in northeast Syria.

“The local [firefighting] teams are not prepared to deal with a disaster of this size, as the fires are spread over a wide area in the countryside of the al-Hasakah governorate,” Deireky added.

“The Autonomous Administration has suspended all projects and has designated most of its machinery to participate in putting out the fires,” an employee of the Autonomous Administration’s Qamishli municipality told Syria Direct under the condition of anonymity, as they are not authorized to talk to journalists.

“[The city of Qamishli] has allocated 90 fire-fighting devices to [battling] the fires and all of its firefighting forces are on full alert.”

However, despite the Autonomous Administrations efforts, fires not only continue to raze cropland but also threaten the lives of the area’s residents. Several civilians have already died trying to fight the blazes.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has documented six civilian deaths, including one woman, in the al-Hasaka governorate, as of June 15th. They were killed while trying to put out the fires on their farmlands.

“The fires have destroyed huge areas [of northeast Syria],” Suleiman Barudo, the Minister of Agriculture in the Autonomous Administration, told Syria Direct.

“Some of the fires are out of control.”

The Autonomous Administration’s inability to contain the fire’s spread in its territory has provoked anger from residents.

Rumors as to who is to blame for the fires are widespread, with videos circulating on social media supposedly showing the perpetrators, who at various times [are portrayed as]  Syrian Democratic Forces, Turkey, and Syrian government forces. One thing is agreed upon, however: the fires are manmade, and that compensation for damage sustained is necessary.


After the outbreak of the fires in northeastern Syria, the Autonomous Administration raised the price floor of wheat from 150 Syrian Lira (around 0.28 USD) to 160 Syrian Lira (around 0.30 USD) per kilo.

The Autonomous Administration receives financial and logistical assistance from its partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, as well as in-kind assistance in those areas cleared of IS. However, this assistance has not been extended to firefighting.

The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, a human rights advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., emphasized that “the international coalition should provide more funding and equipment for firefighters in SDF held territories.” They also stressed the need for impartial investigations to discourage further cases of arson.

The fires that swept across farms in northeast Syria dashed the hopes of Syrian farmers who were expecting a profitable season. In May 2019, the Syrian government predicted that “wheat production [will] exceed last year’s season by 35 percent.” However, after the punishing fires in northeast Syria during the last two months, such an outcome seems out of reach.

The fires raging in northeast Syria are the latest in a series of crises that the area’s residents have faced in recent years, having lived under IS rule before the SDF took control of the area.


No comments: