The scorching heat and lack of water are fueling internal and external political conflicts in the Middle East. In Iran, thousands have been protesting water shortages and power cuts for more than a week. Opposition human rights activists say 10 people have been killed in clashes with police. According to Amnesty International…
The scorching heat and lack of water are fueling internal and external political conflicts in the Middle East. In Iran, thousands have been protesting water shortages and power cuts for more than a week. Opposition human rights activists say 10 people have been killed in clashes with police. According to Amnesty International, officials fired live ammunition at protesters. The UN was also concerned about the violence.
The unrest started in the oil-rich province of Khusestan on the border with Iraq. The protests have since spread to other parts of the country. The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, arrived in Khusestan this weekend – opposition officials fear it could be a sign of even more brutal crackdowns on the protesters. Opponents of the regime accuse the government of ruining the country with corruption and mismanagement. On the other hand, authorities say water resources have become scarce due to an unusual drought.
People have also taken to the streets in neighboring Iraq in recent weeks. Protesters in Basra in the south of the country and in the capital Baghdad protested the lengthy power cuts that paralyzed air conditioning and water supplies in the middle of the summer heat. Although Iraq is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world, the state has failed to modernize its electrical grid and other important parts of its infrastructure after the destruction caused by the US invasion in 2003.
A drastic drop in rainfall in northern neighboring Turkey adds further problems: The biblical rivers Euphrates and Tigris, which originate in Turkey and whose water is used to supply millions of people in Iraq, carry less water than in previous years. Iraqi authorities also accuse Turkey of retaining water from the two streams in reservoirs; Ankara rejects this. The situation is exacerbated by a dispute with Iran, which supplies Iraq with electricity and gas for power generation. According to media reports, Iraq owes its neighbor $4 billion for energy imports – which is why the Iranians temporarily halted supplies a few weeks ago.
Similar problems threaten the water supply in Lebanon. The state has hardly any money left to pay for energy imports. That is why two power stations have been temporarily taken offline in recent weeks. The power outages of up to 22 hours a day and the lack of money forced the waterworks to ration the water quantities for private households. With politicians in Beirut arguing for months to no avail over the formation of a new government, there is currently no prospect of a reform program to resolve the crisis.
There is also a dispute over water in northeastern Syria. The UN recently sounded the alarm because the pumping station of Alouk on the border with Turkey had failed. The station usually pumps groundwater into a reservoir that powers the Syrian city of Al-Hasakah. But Alouk doesn’t work anymore. Up to a million people are affected, UNICEF says. The problems with Alouk started in 2019 when Turkish troops and allied militias marched into northeastern Syria to expel the Kurdish YPG militia from the border area. Alouk has been under Turkish control ever since, but the electricity for the pumping station comes from the nearby YPG area. The Kurds accuse Turkey of repeatedly taking out Alouk and thus blackmailing the people of the area.
Egypt and Sudan fear water in the Nile will become scarce as Ethiopia fills a huge reservoir on the Blue Nile for a hydroelectric power station. The reservoir behind the $4 billion “Great Dam of the Ethiopian Rebirth” is to be filled with 74 billion cubic meters of water from the Nile and will power the Ethiopian economy. But for Egypt, a country of 100 million people, the Nile is the only source of drinking water; Sudan fears that less water in the Nile could cripple its own hydroelectric power plants.
Both countries accuse the government in Addis Ababa of ignoring their interests. Egypt has threatened Ethiopia with war several times.