October 8, 2013
The Euphrates Dam, also known as the al-Assad Dam, and the neighboring village of a-Tabaqa in A-Raqqa province have been under the control of the Free Syrian Army since February of this year. The dam, 60 meters high and 4.5 kilometers long, which Hafez al-Assad held up as a great achievement, also provides electricity to A-Raqqa and Deir e-Zor.
Last month, the dam and the area surrounding it came under heavy regime shelling, one of which reportedly struck the dam’s structure. Fears spread that destruction of the dam, and the subsequent release of Lake al-Assad, Syria’s largest reservoir, would flood the city of A-Raqqa and its 3 million residents.
The northeastern province of A-Raqqa is currently the only completely rebel-controlled province in Syria. The insurgent extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Sham has seized control of the provincial capital of A-Raqqa city from the Free Syrian Army, though regime airstrikes and barrel bombs continue to fall on the city.
Nuha Shabaan spoke with Hussam Isa, a 25 year-old with a law degree working for an opposition media office in Tabaqa about his fear that the dam will eventually be destroyed.
Q: What is the danger in the Euphrates basin now? Who is threatening it from what you can tell?
A: The biggest fear is that the dam will be bombed by the regime. The danger is their rockets and missiles, either from planes or heavy weaponry.
Construction began on the dam on the Euphrates River in 1968 and took five years of serious effort. The dam’s height, facilities for energy conversion, hydroelectric station for generating electricity and the movement to correct the water flow were completed in 1973.
Lake al-Assad and the Euphrates Dam in the northeastern province of a-Raqqa.
Q: When were these missiles and rockets fired?
A: The regime went mad, targeting the area around the dam with heavy artillery. They returned a second day, targeting the dam itself with barrel bombs. By chance, those bombs fell in the water and the damage to the dam was minor. Then they targeted the area with cluster bombs.
Q: What is the historical value of Euphrates Dam, and what does it mean for Syria and Syrians?
A: It is a source of wealth for Syrians generally because it provides electricity for the northern and eastern areas of Syria, as well as some central areas, and also protects farms from flooding.
Q: How many people live around the dam? How many people benefit from it?
A: The population now cannot be estimated because they are fleeing. The people benefiting from the dam are people in the cities of A-Raqqa, Deir e-Zor, Abu Kamal and the northern areas. In terms of damage, in case of the dam’s collapse, whole towns would drown, parts of Iraq would be underwater, oil resources would be destroyed, animals and valued ancient ruins would also be influenced. Epidemics and disease would also spread.
Q: Do you think the regime will try to shell the dam again?
A: The regime has shelled everything in Syria and has committed all of these massacres, the latest using chemical weapons. Nothing will stop it. It will not think twice about shelling any establishment in order to stay in power. [It will shell] even the Euphrates Dam, even if some claim it was an achievement of Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad.
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