Farmers in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria have been targeted continually by the deliberate burning of their crops, with ISIS militants widely suspected to be the perpetrators.
Large quantities of farmland across north and northeastern Syria have been set alight over the past weeks, primarily in areas held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). With temperatures hitting record highs, local authorities in the region are having trouble quelling the fires, with hundreds of acres damaged by the flames.
The burning of agricultural crops is particularly troublesome to the Kurdish authorities in northern Syria, given agriculture’s total worth to the local economy. After oil, crops grown by farmers here are considered to be the second most important economic resource.
One farmer told of the scale of the suffering borne by people in the industry as a result of the fires, estimating that almost 750 acres of farmland have been lost.
Although the culprits are yet to be identified, it is widely believed that ISIS militants are behind the attack as part of the group’s new wave of guerrilla warfare that seeks to target the crops and livelihoods of Syrian farmers during harvest season.
In a recent issue of its newsletter al-Naba, the group explicitly stated its intent to burn farmland, claiming responsibility for fires in Hasakah, northeastern Syria, as well as in the provinces of Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Diyala in neighbouring Iraq.
Another farmer stated that the deliberate acts of arson are preventing farmers like him from being able to provide for their families, as well as pay their bills and debts, having waited all year for harvest season to generate the income they so desperately needed. According to him, homes and villages have also been burnt to the ground in recent attacks.
Whilst the authorities in the Autonomous Administration in northern Syria battle to contain the fires, their struggles are compounded by the sheer size of the agricultural plains and a shortage of firefighters locally.
In the space of only a month, it is estimated that around 160,000 hectares of wheat and barley were burnt to the ground, further stifling the economic lifeblood of the region.
These developments serve as a stark reminder that the battle to defeat ISIS extends beyond recent military conquest and stopping the group’s acts of sabotage against innocent civilians.