Erdogan ‘risks lives’ blocking water supply to Kurds

A displaced Syrian girl fills water from a cistern at a refugee camp in the northern countryside of Idlib. (AP)
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Updated 02 April 2020

Erdogan ‘risks lives’ blocking water supply to Kurds

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was accused by aid and rights groups on Wednesday of risking lives during the coronavirus pandemic by restricting water supplies to nearly half-a-million Kurds in northeast Syria.

The restriction compromises humanitarian workers’ efforts to protect local communities against COVID-19, especially in terms of handwashing practices and personal hygiene, Human Rights Watch said.

On March 29, Turkey blocked the flow of water through Allouk pumping station near the Syrian town of Ras Al-Ain.  The station has been controlled by Turkey and allied Syrian forces since October 2019, when Ankara launched an offensive against Syrian-Kurdish forces.

“A water shortage would certainly make a coronavirus outbreak less controllable in Syria, and drive individuals to escape to where they can get treatment and be protected, and the likely target would be neighboring countries, including Turkey,” Sara Kayyali, a Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Arab News.

Allouk had been providing water to about 460,000 people in Syria’s Al-Hasakeh governorate, including those living in displacement camps such as Al-Hol and Areesheh.

UNICEF warned that the “interruption of water supply during the current efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease puts children and families at unacceptable risk.”

Human Rights Watch said:
“The Turkish authorities should do everything they can to immediately resume supply to these

The group is concerned that the water shortage may lead to a greater risk of coronavirus contagion in the region.

Faruk Logoglu, a retired Turkish diplomat, called for the introduction of “corona diplomacy” by Ankara in its relations with Syria, which does not have enough hospitals, ventilators, medicines and medical equipment. “Contacts should be initiated” by Turkey with the Syrian government “to develop a joint plan of action to fight the pandemic,” he said.

Some regions of Syria, especially opposition-held Idlib province, are a ticking time bomb, with an insufficient number of coronavirus
test kits.

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”