News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
In a new report for Radikal journalist Fehim Taştekin has written about the the shipment of blackmarket oil from Syria to Turkey and the role that the Turkish state has played in facilitating such shipments. Much of the oil being shipped from Syria and Iraq is controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS) and remains a major source of financing for the group.
Taştekin visited the the town of Hacıpaşa in Hatay Province, where he spoke with locals and documented the presence of improvised pipelines for carrying oil across the border, writing “the pipelines begin on the Syrian-side of the border in Ezmerin and pass through Asi. They run through fields and under the stonestreets of the town and come out in the back courtyards of local houses. The oil is pumped from the other side and fills storage tanks in these courtyards. The pipeline is run by commanders on both sides who coordinate the pumping of oil by cellphone. Sometimes when a commander is late the oil spills out onto the ground. The oil which comes from ISIS controlled Deyr el Zor and Rakka costs 1.25 Turkish liras a liter when it reaches its end user in Turkey. Even if a barrel or two goes to waste its no big deal. Customers come to the door and fill up 70 liter drums. This is the prize for local villagers who are support the [Turkish] state’s Syria policy. A Turkish military outpost 100 meters away with a clear view of the border can easily watch the refugees coming and going from Asi on rafts with fuel, tea, olives and other smuggled goods. Now that the state wants to quell news that ISIS oil refined using primitive methods is being consumed in Turkey it has been intervening in this network since March. The Jandarma has cut the pipelines where they come out of the fields into the road. Thousands of meters of pipeline has been collected from these fields. The Turkish military has established a checkpoint to prevent smuggling. The whole network has come to a halt and the partnerships have been broken. Those who have been earning a living for three years smuggling are now revolting…”
Taştekin collected testimonies from locals, many of whom are involved in the transport of oil from Syria to Turkey. He withheld their names out of fear for their safety. Below is some of what they had to say.
-Between 80 and 90% of local families are involved in the oil smuggling. Although most of the pipes have been cut a limited amount of oil continues to flow.
-The state is well aware of the oil smuggling. Everything happened in front of the military. Some locals even brought pipe-laying machinery from Japan. It was something done in plain sight.
-Between 30-50 tankers of oil passed every day.
-When one local’s vehicle was stuck in the mud beside a pipeline, the military brought a tank to get it out. “Then it was legal” he asked “why is now illegal? What changed?”
-Starting in March the situation changed. Soldiers open fire on anyone who approaches the border.
-Locals helped everyone in Syria. They also helped some Turkish officials to cross the border.
-Truck drivers with whom Taştekin met complained about the state’s intervention in the trade and the obivous double standards it entails, saying “Ok let’s say that the oil was cut as a precaution against ISIS. But the militants continue to cross everywhere. Go to Esentepe and you will see.”