Civilians in Northeast Syria Bombarded by Turkish Drones and Strangled by US Sanctions

by Lindsey Snell, Cory Popp, and Hoshang Hassan

Destroyed control room at Sweidiya gas and power station

For decades, Daleel Amed* worked as an engineer at the Sweidiya gas and power station in Hasakah, Syria. That all changed on January 15th, 2024, when a barrage of Turkish drone strikes destroyed the facility. “Send pictures of our control room to Mr. Biden,” Amed said, gesturing towards the charred, gnarled mass of metal that once controlled plant operations.

“You should be sorry for this,” Amed said. “You should report what you see to the US. The US can push the Turks, and we know this. The US says, ‘we’re democratic, we’re democratic.’ How is this bombing democratic?”

Sweidiya gas and power station

The Sweidiya station was just one of hundreds of civilian sites across areas controlled by the predominantly-Kurdish, US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that Turkey has targeted with drone attacks since October 2023. The relentless strikes have left a trail of devastation, crippling critical infrastructure that provides essential services to local populations. The US has remained largely silent as its NATO ally perpetrates these brazen attacks on civilian targets.

Sweidiya gas and power station

In addition to supplying electricity to hundreds of thousands of residents, Sweidiya station provided power to critical service facilities, such as hospitals, water wells, and grain mills. The station was staffed entirely by civilian workers like Amed. “We have nothing to do with any military,” he emphasized. “We are civilians. We are serving civilians with electricity. What justification could there be for Turkey to bomb us here?”

When asked whether the station would be rebuilt, Amed threw up his hands in frustration. “No. This place is finished. And these gas turbines were from an American company. The American company can’t replace them because of the American sanctions on Syria.”

In 2020, the US Department of the Treasury implemented additional sanctions on companies engaging in business with the Syrian government in the energy, construction, and engineering fields. Despite assurances from US officials that the measures wouldn’t impact areas under the control of the SDF, the sanctions have proven crippling.

An energy sector official in Northeast Syria, who requested anonymity, said that US State Department representatives visited the region in March 2023 and promised to lift the sanctions in SDF-controlled areas, but this has yet to materialize.

Amed said that plant workers were able to repair damage Turkey inflicted in a minor drone strike in October 2023 using spare parts they’d squirrelled away. “But with the strikes in December, this place is totally destroyed. We filled 80 truckloads with the debris and damaged equipment after the strikes, and we still haven’t cleared it all.

“We have no power in our homes now, for months,” Amed said, his voice shaking with emotion. “Imagine what it’s like to live like this. We are living in the dark ages now. I’m sorry, but we are very angry, and we do not trust the American government.”

US soldiers a few kilometers from Sweidiya gas and power station

*an alias

Share this: