You can access here my review of Lucy Mayblin’s book “Asylum after Empire. Colonial Legacies in the Politics of Asylum Seeking” on Refuge 34(2): 158-160.
Posts Tagged With: EuropeanUnion
Migration Influxes and European Compassion: How Long Do We Need to Wait for an Informed Sustainability? (by Estella Carpi, November 2015)
(Photo taken from France24)
Over the last two months, everyone with internet access has surely come across the picture of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler drowned in Turkish waters on a beach of Bodrum last September 2. It seems the photo of Aylan, along with waves of refugees trying to cross to Eastern Europe – mainly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan – have finally shaken the Western public from its lethargy and has made frighteningly tangible to all of us the human limit to which political crises, transnational disputes, and the controversies of a “North-South” humanitarian system have led us.
According to the studies of Lili Chouliaraki, the phenomenon that we currently witness consists of new “ironic spectators” watching the suffering of the Other: so to speak, the user of the compassionate “Facebook like” vocabulary, who celebrates and self-advertises her/his acts of charity, and exchanges the ethical consumption of solidarity for information and sustainability. Once again, the ephemeral solidarity cultivated in the media, and the compassion towards an abstract multitude of “desperate migrants”, too rarely claim back the historicity of the events, and are rather concerned with telling us their sad stories to consequently stimulate our intentions and defend them.
Once again, the solidarity that seldom questions the reasons behind the European public rapidly turning from indifference to mass sympathy, is promoted in terms of lifestyle rather than informed and responsive civic-mindedness.
After the diffusion of the picture of the lifeless body of the little Aylan, European media have offered much more space to the discussion of the (in)formal aid that civilians are providing to refugees, and their civil protests organised to express a “European spirit” of solidarity. These initiatives, until the Syrian emergency and the chronic predicament of neighbouring populations were mostly affecting the Middle Eastern region, had not been implemented in the European Union (EU) to the same extent as presently.
The public compassion in the wake of the massive “refugee crisis” – a definition that is actually able to conceal the political causes and the external responsibilities underlying such crises – has now become the driving force of transnational assistance, pushing couch spectators beyond their mere sympathy.
The “sentimental education” that Richard Rorty was advancing may be able to cultivate at school a co-feeling of empathy among the youth and provide a new common ground to tackle international crises. While human sensitivity to differences should not be taken for granted and should rather be taught, how can we prevent the culture of rights, traditionally championed by the so-called “Global North”, from remaining ephemeral as much as the public attention to desperate exoduses and displacements? In the current media morass, the promotion of human rights through philanthropic campaigns and the proliferation of NGOs, which has long tasted of Western neoliberalism and paternalistic third worldism, still struggles to offer deeper explanations to such crises. And it is even more alarming that the average European spectator remains unlikely to accept that the stories recounting South-North migrations are not all necessarily sad.
The average European spectator has proved, once again, to mobilise and face her/his encounter with refugees and migrants in purely humanitarian terms, and not in the political recognition of their right to a new life, asylum, or protection. It is not only the fact that “they suffer like us” that should be pitied and recognised. That ”at the end of the day they suffer like us”, although being a sine qua non prelude of generosity, is still unable to give birth to informed and sustainable solidarities. As long as refugee crises and political failures are not recounted to the open public with substantial historical information and upcoming legal challenges, individual spectators will keep struggling to identify continuities between the physical presence of refugees and their need for assistance in the host country, as well as the need for politically recognising their rights and the ways in which naturalisation of rights can be dealt with in contemporary societies. The humanitarian effort, regrettably, is presented as a moral duty that remains independent from immigration issues.
Over the past months, the temporary restoration of border controls in Germany and Austria, the construction of the wall at the Serbian-Hungarian border, and Hungarian journalist Petra Laszlo tripping a Syrian refugee, all clearly point to the reinforcement of moral and material borders in the countries most affected by the refugee influx. These episodes point to something that seems to be much larger than a mere “refugee influx”, as they are rather unraveling a massive crisis of human encounters.
Moreover, recent developments have shown that EU countries cannot cope alone with these migration flows, and the overall UN commitment to the provision of relief has therefore become more consistent within their boundaries. One of the greatest challenges is now the adaption of the conventional humanitarian response, normally provided in refugee camps populated by sedentary residents, to multitudes of mobile people, who tend to remain in a place for a few days, or even for a few hours, before seeking to continue to the desired destination. The management of what can be called a “transit emergency”, especially in Italy, Greece, Serbia, and Hungary, is still an unexplored way of intervening for European humanitarian organisations. The opening of new local offices of some international NGOs – such as World Vision, Islamic Relief, and Action Aid – has therefore become inevitable.
Europeans should now reconsider their North-South neoliberal policies, embraced under the historical banner of moral responsibility, which gradually reduced humanitarianism and development to mere instruments of international security. On this purpose, it is worth mentioning that the emergency relief provision and the development projects, which followed the Lebanon-Israel war in Hezbollah-led areas, are evidently concerned with western life and security; similarly, western securitisation was pursued in Afghanistan by toppling the Talibans from power. Also, natural disasters like drought and floods in Mozambique in the 1980s were publicly discussed as an exclusive political conflict in order to enhance foreign action.
The other common challenge is realising that all individuals are advocates and actors together in different geopolitical orders that peoples on the move, and beyond, will never comply with. Facing these challenges and paving the way to understanding, rather than compassion, would not only save many lives from a bio-political perspective, but would also avert the “side effects” of such cyclical struggles for a geopolitical order from a more pragmatic angle.
Upholding and protecting the rights of asylum seekers cannot remain at the mercy of elusive and ill-informed social solidarities. Let alone in the exclusive hands of state actors and the official diplomacy. Indeed, there are still a large number of issues that can be tackled from the bottom. Some of these real challenges are to imperatively fill with deeper contextual knowledge the numerous calls for material assistance on the grounds of mere emotional piety; educate the public via media and school programmes to the legality of rights and the material hardships that displacement exposes to; and, consequently, support such rights subtending migration and refugeehood when the “fifteen minutes of fame” of the ongoing mass compassion will have come to their end.
NGOs and UN agencies issuing reports, news-makers, scholars, and researchers involved in migration issues, should rather realise their actual potential to make the general public more critical and analytic. This would already progressively mark a decisive turning point.
As a tangible result of a more responsive and informed public, grassroots’ initiatives could be advanced in coordination with state and NGO efforts.
There are several examples of how grassroots’ initiatives made a real difference, accepting refugees and migrants into their own community and not merely assisting them as humanitarian victims who need to biologically survive. For instance, in the city of Kalmar in Sweden, in a bid to help refugees integrate, the Swedish migration board, after consulting with local residents, decided to offer to asylum seekers free bus passes. Provided that refugee accommodation centers are generally located on the outskirts of towns, this move materially allowed the newcomers to come outside of their communities and be given the opportunity to influence public spaces and local cultural forms.
Similarly, in the Italian region of Veneto, when a tornado ripped through the outskirts of Venice last July causing massive destruction, recent refugees and migrants were called upon by local citizens to provide help, thereforerevealing the will to include the new civic agents into the local community, and going beyond simple aid provision. Likewise, a few years ago, the municipality of Riace in South Italy took abandoned homes and made them into spaces for the homeless. The refugees brought new life to a dying town, constituting the future human capital of the small town.
Despite the widespread determinism through which wars and disasters are frequently viewed as unavoidable or unresolvable, grassroots’ action and even individual acts, to some extent, are able to influence macrocosmic legal and political trends. However, the speed at which the latest tide of compassion is already disappearing, at the moment, does not leave much hope for far more informed, far-sighted, and effective efforts.
 Crisis ist the way in which political failure and the absence of will for facing social predicament or political discontent are labeled, with the practical consequence of concealing the very social, economic, and political factors leading to such crises. The expression, widespread in the international media as well as in the scholarship dealing with politics and international relations, is able to de-agentify the source of action of refugee influxes, economic downturns, and people’s resentment.
 Rorty, R. (1998) “Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality”, in Rorty, R., Truth and Progress. Philosophical Papers, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 167-185.
 Barnes, S. (1998) “Humanitarian Aid Coordination During War and Peace in Mozambique, 1985-1995”, in Studies on Emergency and Disaster Relief, Report No. 7, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
Flussi migratori e compassione europea: a quando informazione e sostenibilità? (by Estella Carpi, October 2015)
Sembra esser stata soprattutto la foto di Aylan, il bimbo siriano di origini curde affogato nelle acque turche sulla spiaggia di Bodrum il 2 settembre, insieme alle ondate di profughi che tentano il passaggio dall’Europa orientale – provenienti soprattutto da Siria, Iraq e Afghanistan – ad avere finalmente ridestato il pubblico occidentale dal suo torpore rendendo spaventosamente tangibile il limite umano al quale ci hanno condotti le crisi politiche transnazionali e le controversie dell’assistenza umanitaria “nord-sud”.
Sull’onda degli studi di Lili Chouliaraki, il fenomeno che abbiamo di fronte è quello che potrebbe essere definito come l’emergere di un nuovo “spettatore ironico” della sofferenza altrui; l’utente del vocabolario compassionevole del “Facebook like”, che auto-celebra e pubblicizza i propri atti di carità, e scambia il consumo etico per solidarietà informata e sostenibile. Ancora una volta, la solidarietà effimera coltivata nell’ambiente mediatico, e la compassione di massa verso l’astratta moltitudine dei “disperati”, troppo raramente reclama la storicità degli eventi, e racconta le loro tristi storie per attivare le nostre intenzioni e difenderle.
Ancora una volta, la solidarietà che poco s’interroga sul perché del rapido passaggio dall’indifferenza alla compassione pubblica è promossa in termini di stile di vita, e non di una mentalità civico-politica davvero informata e reattiva.
Dopo la diffusione dell’immagine del corpo esanime del piccolo Aylan, i media europei hanno dato maggior spazio alla discussione degli aiuti informali e formali che le popolazioni forniscono ai profughi, e le proteste civili organizzate per esprimere lo spirito di solidarietà e accoglienza presenti nell’Unione europea. Iniziative che, finché l’emergenza colpiva soltanto il panorama mediorientale, non erano state attuate a pari livello.
La compassione pubblica suscitata dalla “crisi dei profughi” – un appellativo,peraltro, capace di coprire insieme cause politiche e responsabilità esterne alla radice di tale crisi – si è ora per fortuna trasformata in motore di assistenza transnazionale, oltrepassando la mera compassione da spettatori in poltrona.
Un’educazione “sentimentale”, come la chiamava Richard Rorty, sarebbe forse utile nelle scuole europee per coltivare un sentire condiviso nelle nuove generazioni e offrire un terreno comune di condivisione ed empatia. Se da un lato, infatti, è indispensabile che la sensibilità verso la differenza non sia data per scontata e che ci venga dunque insegnata, dall’altro lato, come si può evitare che la cultura dei diritti umani, di cui il cosiddetto “nord globale” si fa paladino, resti effimera tanto quanto l’interesse pubblico verso il disperato fenomeno di esodi e dispersioni? La sponsorizzazione dei diritti umani, che ha già da tempo assunto la fisionomia del liberalismo di stampo occidentale e paternalismo terzomondista, stenta ad offrire una migliore spiegazione delle ragioni alla radice di tali crisi nel marasma mediatico odierno.
Il cittadino europeo medio ha dimostrato ancora una volta di mobilitarsi e affrontare il proprio incontro con i profughi/migranti in termini squisitamente umanitari e in relazione a uno stato di eccezione ritenuto temporaneo, restando tra l’altro restio ad affrontare la fase successiva fatta di richiesta di diritti.
Nel caos dei mesi di agosto e settembre, il temporaneo ripristino dei controlli di frontiera in Germania e Austria, la costruzione del muro al confine serbo–ungherese, e lo sgambetto teso a un profugo siriano dalla giornalista ungherese Petra Laszlo, sono segnali evidenti di un rafforzamento delle frontiere non solo materiali, ma anche morali nei paesi più toccati dalle ondate migratorie. Tali episodi sembrano significare ben più che un’ingente “crisi di profughi”: sembra trattarsi piuttosto di una vera e propria crisi delle interazioni e degli incontri umani.
Inoltre, i recenti sviluppi hanno dimostrato che i paesi Ue non possono far fronte da soli a tali flussi migratori, e l’impegno da parte dell’Onu diventa quindi sempre più radicato al loro interno. La sfida maggiore consiste nella necessità improvvisa di integrare la convenzionale risposta umanitaria, offerta all’interno di strutture di accoglienza popolate da residenti intenzionati a divenire stanziali, con percorsi per l’accoglienza di quei migranti che a volte restano per pochi giorni, o addirittura per poche ore, prima di proseguire verso la destinazione desiderata. La gestione di quello che potremmo chiamare un “transito d’emergenza”, specialmente in Italia, Grecia, Serbia, e Ungheria, è ancora un ambito ignoto alle organizzazioni umanitarie europee, e ha richiesto l’apertura di nuove sedi locali di alcune grandi organizzazioni non governative internazionali come World Vision, Islamic Relief e Action Aid.
La vera sfida in ambito europeo è riconsiderare radicalmente l’approccio verticale nord-sud e comunque ‘occidente-centrico’ perpetrato nel nome degli storici stendardi della responsabilità internazionale morale, che ha gradualmente ridotto le politiche umanitarie e di cooperazione allo sviluppo a meri strumenti di sicurezza internazionale. L’altra sfida è quella di capire di essere tutti quanti soggetti e attori di uno stesso ordine geopolitico integrato. Prendere atto di tutto questo non solo risparmierebbe molte vite, ma potrebbe probabilmente evitare molti degli “effetti collaterali” dei ciclici conflitti internazionali.
La realizzazione dei diritti di asilo e protezione in materia d’immigrazione, in quanto diritti umani convenzionalmente riconosciuti, non dovrebbe dipendere dal carattere effimero di sfuggenti e non sempre pienamente informate solidarietà sociali. La vera scommessa sarà continuare a sostenere e implementare tali diritti quando l’attuale compassione di massa verrà meno dopo la foga ‘emergenziale’ di questi mesi.
(Picture taken from: http://www.madamasr.com)
A Palestinian poet and an Italian journalist meet five Syrians and Palestinians fleeing the war in Syria at the Milan central station, and decide to help them to reach Sweden by faking a wedding.
It is known that violation of border-regime is a violation of orthodox transnational ethics, and, as such, it is often denigrated by citizens and feared by “aspirant” asylum seekers. In fact, illegal border crossing is widely seen as a criminal act deserving punishment. Based on a capitalist and ethnically discriminatory way of organising people and space, borders regulate human movements, and, as such, they developed an aesthetic of human resentment, fear, psychological deterrence or achievement.
The new film “On the bride’s side”, which has just launched a crowd-funding campaign, seems to me the cinematographic embodiment of unquestionably worthy deeds of human will. Therefore, the movie succeeds in speaking to the public that is neither expert nor necessarily interested in forced migration issues or, in general, the current Middle East’s “plagues”. The Nietzschan manifestation of “the will to power” is what the movie primarily conveys to the public. As a result, any sort of public will get hooked throughout the movie.
The mandatory request for the asylum seekers to provide a “legitimation” of their desires is deliberately denied in its own raison d’être by the decision of this large group of Italians, Palestinians and Syrians. They are all protagonists of a journey, which, to me, also constitutes a meaningful turning point in the bottom-up cultural production on migration and politics. Their journey from Milan to Stockholm starts as a joke, certainly with rational doubts. However, the spectator cannot perceive any emotional hesitation, develops expectations – or even a sort of anxiety – to witness either the final acknowledgment or the failure of human action.
Journalist Gabriele Del Grande, poet Khaled Soliman an-Nassiry and filmmaker Antonio Augugliaro succeed in reminding us that borders are no longer simple edges of a state. Borders are symbolical tyrants, because they manage to shape our perception of the world, as anthropologist Khosravi noticed. And, as Del Grande affirmed in several interviews, “the aesthetics of the border needs to be overturned”.
As a matter of fact, the migrants who cross the Mediterranean Sea and undertake the journey to seek asylum are victims of human laws. Once they crossed, “conflict victims” cannot be their only definition; and not even “victims of fate”, like a large part of the humanitarian assistance sector likes to argue, dealing with an agentless and depersonalised “refugee crisis”.
The movie seems to contend that the only humanitarian act that can be accomplished is taking clear sides. The sides of people who cannot freely choose, against laws allegedly designed to protect the security and the stability of the western fortress, which further feed the gap between imaginary Norths and Souths, and organise human life alongside hierarchical lines.
“On the bride’s side” is a most dignified conveyer of new “border thinking”. A thinking that not merely challenges laws, but rather the North’s consciousness, rushing over to “rescue” people in conflict-ridden sites by providing humanitarian assistance, or intervening in the name of the Responsibility to Protect. Nevertheless, the northern saviours are difficultly willing to open their own borders to embrace the product of the umpteenth political failure, which we love to call “state of emergency”.
In the western proliferation of compassion and sentimentalism around refugehood, which poorly address the European refugee regimes, “On the bride’s side” finally establishes the still missing agency of the refugees: the possibility of asserting one’s own will and develop one’s own rights. Rights that the Law has not forgotten, but has rather suffocated. In the face of this, “the bride” Tasneem Fared states in the movie: as-sama’ lal kol, “the sky is of everyone”.
Finally, I immensely appreciated how “On the bride’s side” greatly shuffles cinema with positivistic activism, where the video camera is the voicing tool that is able to replace the protest’s megaphone.
In a nutshell, the illegal journey from Italy to Sweden is the triumph of a reshaped conception of human rights, according to which the Global North, in order to support and assist the war-stricken Global South, cannot limit itself to provide relief or tell human stories on behalf of unspoken victims to raise compassion. The Northern fence sitters, at some point, connive in the “South’s” predicament.
We have the duty to take a clear stance, speak up and act accordingly. Otherwise, as Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi affirmed, laws will always remain behind us.
A piece I wrote from Syria for the Swiss weekly WOZ Die Wochenzeitung : it is based on the account of a doctor in Ras al-‘Ayn (Sere Kanye in Kurdish), who accused the Arab armed opposition of neglecting the health sector. The response I got from the Free Syrian Army’s commander in Hasakeh is that weapons come before medicines in the current situation. For those of you who don’t read German (like me;), here is the original English version. Photo taken by my friend Bahzad Hajj Hammo, who writes for the Syrian weekly Jisr.
Free Syrian Army: In a stateless country weapons have the priority over medicines
By Andrea Glioti
Ras al-‘Ayn (Hasakeh-Syria)- April 29, 2013
Over the last year, the Syrian armed opposition has expanded significantly its area of influence at the expenses of the regime. However, since the State hospitals stopped functioning in the hands of the rebels, people need to cope with the lack of drugs and medical personnel. In such dire conditions, the phalanges of the opposition are blamed for living in luxury at the expenses of the neglected health sector.
On April 22, the European Union lifted the oil embargo on Syria with the declared aim to help the uprising in coordination with the most-widely recognized opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), whose armed wing is the Free Syrian Army (FSA). For the opposition, the condition to restart selling oil is the formation of a transitional Government in the liberated areas, but who will ensure that oil revenues will not enrich arm dealers only?
Located in the north-eastern province of al-Hasakeh, the Arab-Kurdish town of Ras al-‘Ayn (Serê Kaniyê in Kurdish) is a crucial border passage to Turkey, which was taken over by the Arab opposition in October 2012.
In February, it has been the battlefield of two-weeks of clashes between the Arab opposition and the Kurdish YPG (Popular Protection Units, Yekîneyên Parastina Gel), the armed wing of the PKK-tied PYD (Democratic Union Party, Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat). A truce signed on February 17 is still holding, but the situation is likely to explode again soon. “We are committed to the agreement, but we don’t consider liberated the areas under the control of the Pyd, as there is no revolutionary flag waving over them,” affirms maj. Muntasir al-Khalid, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Military Council of the province of Hasakeh.
Echoing the position of most Kurdish opposition parties, the PYD avoided Government shelling by keeping aloof from Arab rebels, while profiting from the regime’s need to count on a Kurdish buffer zone to deter any possible Turkish interference in support of the FSA. The result is that most Kurdish areas enjoy now a de-facto autonomy and the Pyd refuses categorically to hand them over to the FSA.
In such a volatile context, Ghuraba’ al-Sham’s Wa’el Abu Ahmad is one of the few active doctors. Despite having a stable occupation in Russia, he decided to return to fight and heal the wounded in Aleppo: in his words, “the gun in one hand and the first-aid kit in the other.”
Six months ago, when Ras al-‘Ayn fell in the hands of the opposition, Abu Ahmad settled there to open his ‘clinic’: two tiny rooms, whose floors are scattered with unpacked drugs and potato sacks. “We received used and half-empty medicine stocks from the Turkish border passage and, overall, around one fourth of the medicines are expired,” complains Abu Ahmad, while pointing at the date stated on the boxes.
According to the doctor’s experience, the ongoing conflict has led to the outbreak of lungs inflammation, due to the exhalations of corpses and waste, besides the scorches caused by the homemade refining of fuel oil (mazout). Moreover, during the Arab-Kurdish clashes, numerous dogs contracted rabies after eating the corpses left in the streets, but Abu Ahmad lacks the serum needed to heal those bitten.
“Three months ago, fourteen people died of kidney diseases, because the State hospital was closed and the necessary equipment got stolen,” continues a disappointed Abu Ahmad.
A patient from Deyr az-Zor wrote a message on the clinic’s wall: “If every mujahidin gave 1kg of wheat for the treatment he receives for free.” Dr. Abu Ahmad works as a volunteer and blames the FSA Military Council for keeping making promises without allocating anything out of the profits derived from the seizure of barns in Ras al-‘Ayn.
As a matter of fact, maj. Muntasir al-Khalid confirms that 3 to 4 million dollars in wheat were sold solely by the FSA Military Council to buy weapons at the Iraqi and Turkish border, following the clashes with the PYD.
“The opposition took over oil wells, poultry, cows and we cannot even afford a 8000 Syp power generator,” continues Abu Ahmad, “1000Syp from every fighter would be enough to satisfy our needs, but they prefer to spend hundreds of dollars in cigarettes, banquets, cars and weapons.”
The FSA blunt response is that, under the light of the current situation, the priority goes to weapons rather than doctors. “The health sector requires a State support, whereas our capabilities are modest,” affirms a peeved maj. Muntasir al-Khalid, “weapons and cars are essential and we’re paying them from our pockets, so that at the moment they come before medical support.” The FSA major laughs at the doctor’s allegations of luxury, “This is what you call luxury?” he says pointing at a pack of few Syrian banknotes on the mattress where he is lying. A few minutes before, a young bearded mujahidin from the FSA-affiliated brigade Dir’ al-muslimin has entered the room to boast about the group’s latest achievements with another journalist: “We are making progresses…Cars, weapons, you saw Abu Wa’el’s new Jeep?”
The list of dr. Abu Ahmad’s complaints is still long. “Both Jabhat al-Nusra and the Military Council have ambulances, but they don’t allow me to use them,” asserts the doctor, “I need to arrange trips to reach villages 40Km away by renting a motorcycle without any sort of protection.”
On the clinic’s walls there are YPG graffiti and Christian icons: the doctor shows them as evidence that everyone receives medical treatment, despite the Islamist orientation of Ghuraba’ al-Sham. Nevertheless, on the battleground there is no echo of these principles. “We received several aid offers from the YPG, but I cannot accept, as the Arab opposition would accuse me of being their agent,” reports Abu Ahmad, “in their eyes, a Kurdish house is a red line I shouldn’t cross to help.”
This is the context where the EU plans to inject oil revenues. At the moment, the oil fields are divided between several different militias, including some outside the SNC umbrella, hence the coalition is against reopening the oil trade. “We’re against selling oil under the current circumstances, there is no dialogue between the different forces in control of the oil wells,” reassures Muntasir al-Khalid, “the oil trade remains dependent on the formation of an interim government on the Syrian ground”
On the other hand, dr. Abu Ahmad remains sharply critical of the future Syrian partner of EU oil imports. “You can call it the National Coalition of thieves: millions coming from Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been amassed in Reyhanli [N/A:Turkish refugee camp] and we haven’t seen anything,” maintains the doctor, “I just want those responsible of exploiting the mujahidin to be held accountable.”
An article I wrote for Al-Monitor after a set of interviews with warring factions, engineers and normal people, who are not even getting electricity out of all these energy reserves.
Syrian Oil Becomes Fault Line
By: Andrea Glioti for Al-Monitor Posted on May 16.
MALEKIYYAH, Al-HASSAKAH PROVINCE, Syria — The province of Hassakah is the Syrian oil tank. Before the revolution, its 170,000 barrels per day accounted for more than half of the country’s oil production, thus representing the backbone of those oil exports covering a third of national export revenues. Syrian oil engineers working in the province told Al-Monitorthat the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — currently controls around 60% of the oil fields, leaving the remaining 40% in the hands of several factions of the Arab opposition. Since the conflict engulfed the route of the pipelines to the refineries, however, the drills have stopped working.
Despite such a fragmented context, the European Union on April 22 decided to lift the oil embargo on liberated regions in Syria in an attempt to support the opposition. The move, though, is likely to stir up Kurdish-Arab strife and catalyze regime raids on a region that has largely remained immune to the conflict so far. The war for control of Syria’s energy resources has not even started, but mutual allegations are already circulating between the parties involved, which accuse each other of cutting power supplies and dealing with the regime.