Without Water, Revolution

Without Water, Revolution

By Thomas Friedman


"You can’t imagine the war here continuing for another year, let alone five. But when you feel the depth of the rage against the Assad government and contemplate the sporadic but barbaric sect-on-sect violence, you can’t imagine any peace deal happening or holding — not without international peacekeepers on the ground to enforce it. Eventually, we will all have to have that conversation, because this is no ordinary war.

THIS Syrian disaster is like a superstorm. It’s what happens when an extreme weather event, the worst drought in Syria’s modern history, combines with a fast-growing population and a repressive and corrupt regime and unleashes extreme sectarian and religious passions, fueled by money from rival outside powers — Iran and Hezbollah on one side, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar on the other, each of which have an extreme interest in its Syrian allies’ defeating the other’s allies — all at a time when America, in its post-Iraq/Afghanistan phase, is extremely wary of getting involved.

I came here to write my column and work on a film for the Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the “Jafaf,” or drought, one of the key drivers of the Syrian war. In an age of climate change, we’re likely to see many more such conflicts.

“The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work.


"Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. “Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land” for urban areas during the last decade, said Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized. “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”

Young people and farmers starved for jobs — and land starved for water — were a prescription for revolution. Just ask those who were here, starting with Faten, whom I met in her simple flat in Sanliurfa, a Turkish city near the Syrian border. Faten, 38, a Sunni, fled there with her son Mohammed, 19, a member of the Free Syrian Army, who was badly wounded in a firefight a few months ago. Raised in the northeastern Syrian farming village of Mohasen, Faten, who asked me not to use her last name, told me her story.

She and her husband “used to own farmland,” said Faten. “We tended annual crops. We had wheat, barley and everyday food — vegetables, cucumbers, anything we could plant instead of buying in the market. Thank God there were rains, and the harvests were very good before. And then suddenly, the drought happened.”

What did it look like? “To see the land made us very sad,” she said. “The land became like a desert, like salt.” Everything turned yellow.

Did Assad’s government help? “They didn’t do anything,” she said. “We asked for help, but they didn’t care. They didn’t care about this subject. Never, never. We had to solve our problems ourselves.”

So what did you do? “When the drought happened, we could handle it for two years, and then we said, ‘It’s enough.’ So we decided to move to the city. I got a government job as a nurse, and my husband opened a shop. It was hard. The majority of people left the village and went to the city to find jobs, anything to make a living to eat.” The drought was particularly hard on young men who wanted to study or marry but could no longer afford either, she added. Families married off daughters at earlier ages because they couldn’t support them.

Faten, her head conservatively covered in a black scarf, said the drought and the government’s total lack of response radicalized her. So when the first spark of revolutionary protest was ignited in the small southern Syrian town of Dara’a, in March 2011, Faten and other drought refugees couldn’t wait to sign on. “Since the first cry of ‘Allahu akbar,’ we all joined the revolution. Right away.” Was this about the drought? “Of course,” she said, “the drought and unemployment were important in pushing people toward revolution.”

end of excerpt.


In this article Thomas Friedman gets to the heart of the Syrian people and the plight they face. This article intertwines all of the main crises we see globally that we ignore at our peril. At the core, our reticence to give the proper attention to the environmental factors that have catapulted Syria into this civil war.

As we continue to move further away from addressing the root causes of these crises we will see the Earth plunged deeper into this chasm.

The greatest outrage of this is that it did not have to happen. However, this is an all too familiar tale on the global stage where you see the intersection of politics, greed, globalization, terrorism and climate change.

Political leaders need to be aware of one stark truth: People when pushed to the brink because the very essence of their lives is taken from them, WILL rightfully revolt.

To see such suffering amongst the Syrian people or any people because they are denied water, land, food, education is a human rights abuse and in this case a war crime. All parties to this civil war that continue to escalate the downfall of Syria based solely on profit motives and political/religious hatred are also war criminals.

In this age of more frequent drought where water and food are going to be strained as population increases our perceptions and priorities need to shift in order to survive the world we are making. We are leaving an entire generation of world citizens behind and continuing to perpetuate the cycle of war and hatred by placing hegemony over humanity.

These are the stories we need to see regarding this civil war. This is also the reality of climate change.

However, notice the US government also makes no mention of this in their talk of what is happening here. No mention of the drought. The water. Climate change at all. That is because these countries involved in one way or another regardless of what "side" they are on seek the same thing... control of the resources that bring them power and profit at the expense of all of us with the Syrian people now as pawns. The people of Syria deserve better and honestly at this point if revolution is all that is left to make this truth known then we are failing each other.

Also see:

Syrian Refugees Hit 1 Million

These people are climate refugees.


I found this, and hope this is still going on in Syria: Water For People And Peace

I also recently posted about a reported seizure by "rebels" of the largest hydropower dam in Syria. Hard to assess at this point as well what "rebel" really means. It is obvious water is being used as a weapon in this war and that to me in unconscionable.

Rebels Seize Syria's Largest Hydropower Dam