Wadi Barada: Another shameful chapter in Assad’s war on Syrians

Julian Röpcke 2017-01-16 13:30:00

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Wadi Barada (the “Barada” valley) − named after the river going through it and supplying much of Damascus with fresh water – has been besieged by the Assad regime for several years now. More than a dozen towns, harboring tens of thousands of brave civilians who rose up to Assad, are blocked, bombed and starved since November 2013. 

But it needed more than 3 years until the United Nations and international journalists started to become interested in Wadi Barada, not because of the regime-hammered civilians and mostly moderate rebels there, who were swiftly re-branded as “Nusra terrorists”, but because of another war crime: The destruction of the water spring in Ain al-Fijah on December 23rd 2016. 

Shortly before the Turkish-Russian initiated “ceasefire” went into effect, the Assad regime aircraft dropped bombs on the facility – clearly captured on video – polluting as well as reducing the flow of fresh water to millions of civilians in and around Damascus. 

It is another war crime by a war criminal meant to provide an excuse to continue offensive operations despite promising to obey the nation-wide ceasefire his guarantor, Russia, signed. But war criminals commit war crimes and one can hardly blame evil people for doing evil things.

What made the act of terrorism by the Assad regime particularly shameful instead is the international reaction to the crime. On January 6, the United Nation’s Jan Egeland was the first prominent figure to de facto adopt the regime’s lie that Syrian rebels were responsible for the water cut off. Instead of naming an air strike an air strike and condemning the action, he spoke of and act of “sabotage”, which was widely transferred into international media communications. Egeland’s (deliberately chosen) vagueness opened the door for most of the media going into the well-known “regime and rebels accuse each other of …” and it only took a week until first western journalists fully repeated the regime’s version of the events. Without any research and despite contrary visual evidence, German journalist Dirk Emmerich said in a TV report from Damascus for the European major network RTL: “Rebels cut the supply of water into the capital,” willingly or not serving as a regime propaganda mouthpiece for the western audience.

What he did not report was the ongoing regime bomb attacks on civilians in the area and the kind of “agreement” rebels and the regime reached in the first towns captured by Hezbollah and Assad’s henchmen in mid-January: The “evacuation” (sectarian cleansing of all rebellious Sunni people) – men, women and children – to Idlib province, more than 200 kilometers away from their homes. Russian regime media showed Assad’s buses were already being prepared to displace the first families as it was seen in so many towns in rural Damascus over the past months.

Last but not least, footage of new artillery strikes on and severe damage in the Ain al-Fijah fresh water facility on the 14th of January were the last needed proof that Assad and his genocidal regime had no interest in mitigating the situation, neither for the people in Wadi Barada nor in Damascus. To ethnically cleanse Syria and kill or displace all insurgent life, the regime and its backers are willing to drain 5 million civilians in greater Damascus as long as it serves their interests of military victory over the free areas.

“Useful idiots” from western countries, supporting the regime’s totally fake narrative turn these continuous war crimes by the regime into another shameful chapter of Assad’s war on Syrians.


Julian Röpcke is a newspaper editor and political commentator, based in the German capital, Berlin. With a degree in Political Geography and Sociology, Mr. Röpcke started analyzing geopolitical conflicts after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He covered the “Arab Spring” as well as the evolving conflicts in Syria and Ukraine from their very beginning. Julian Röpcke works for BILD, the largest newspaper and leading online news portal in Germany (@JulianRoepcke).