Explainer: Deir ez-Zor


Abu Khawla, leader of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council.

On the 27th of August, with the advent of a “Security Enhancement Operation” in the Deir ez-Zor area, reportedly targeting ISIS sleeper cells and drug dealers, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) arrested the Deir ez-Zor Military Council (DMC) leader, Ahmed Al-Khabil, popularly known as Abu Khawla.

The SDF stated: “Following a period of monitoring and considering numerous reports and complaints from the local populace, and based on an arrest warrant issued by the Public Prosecution in NE Syria due to his involvement in multiple crimes and violations, including communication and coordination with external entities hostile to the revolution, committing criminal offenses and engaging in drug trafficking, mismanaging of the security situation, his negative role in increasing the activities of ISIS cells, and exploiting his position for personal and familial interests that violated the internal regulations of the SDF, the Deir Ezzor Military Council, with the consent of SDF Military Council, has decided to dismiss the commander of Deir Ezzor Military Council, Ahmed Al-Khubail, from duty along with four other individuals within the council, directly involved in these crimes and violations”.

The DMC is affiliated to the SDF, but conflicts have been bubbling for a long time between the SDF leadership and an Abu Khawla-led subset of the DMC. Abu Khawla has been an important and controversial figure in Deir ez-Zor since the SDF entered the region. In the early days of the Syrian Civil War, Abu Khawla was in the Free Syrian Army (FSA). When ISIS came, he briefly joined the group, only to soon flee to Turkey. When he returned, he joined the SDF. After the DMC was founded in late 2016, he was appointed leader by the SDF. Military Councils were established in all Arab-majority cities after their liberation from ISIS, with the highest ranks filled by officers from each city with experience of fighting with the SDF. Abu Khawla is from the Al-Bakir tribe, which is part of the Aqidat confederacy. His tribe ended up supporting ISIS when they came to Deir ez-Zor.

Abu Khawla is an influential figure within his tribe; such that even though his family is not in the sheikhly lineage in Al-Bakir, he was able to install himself as sheikh. Over the years of his leadership in the DMC, he has built up a militia of his relatives and friends inside. He is regarded as a corrupt and brutal ruler by many in Deir ez-Zor, with accusations such as rape, looting, and violence against civilians from his forces abounding. Indeed, there had previously been numerous protests in Deir ez-Zor to remove and replace Abu Khawla as DMC leader. Tensions between Abu Khawla and the SDF leadership are primarily due to the latter’s frustration at Abu Khawla’s efforts to use the DMC and his leadership position for his own interests. In December 2022 there were big protests against Abu Khawla in 15 towns inhabited mostly by people from the Baggara tribe, after the DMC leader’s brother, Jalal, and his bodyguard tortured and murdered two women, Najla and Izdihar, in an act of revenge against a cousin of the women. Some from the Baggara tribe declared that they wanted their own Military Council and also made demonstrations for this purpose.

When the SDF announced the launching of a “Security Enhancement Operation” in Deir ez-Zor, they sent large reinforcements from other regions to partake. Meanwhile, when news of the arrested DMC leaders spread, Abu Khawla’s affiliates responded by calling on their clansmen to arrest SDF leaders and attack SDF headquarters (HQs) in Deir ez-Zor. Many within the al-Bakir tribe, led by Adham al-Khubayl, began attacking SDF. The next 4 days saw clashes erupt initially concentrated along the Khabur line (the string of villages and towns along the Khabur river), with SDF forces attacked by tribesmen supportive of Abu Khawla or resentful of the SDF leadership. This spread throughout the eastern and northern countryside of Deir ez-Zor. The violence in the cities of Al-Izba and Al-Husayn has been particularly heavy. Abu Khawla’s main support base is the Al-Bakir tribe, but violent demonstrations were also seen in the areas of other tribes, for example Abu Hamam, Al-Sabha, and Al-Rabida, which are dominated by the Al-Shaitat tribe. On the 29th, notables of Abu Khawla’s Al-Bakir demanded that the SDF and Coalition release the detained DMC leaders, warning that all SDF forces would otherwise become a target for clan fighters. They also called on all Deir ez-Zor tribes to stand with them, particularly the rest of the Aqidat branches. This statement was well received by those with anti-SDF sentiments, such as Government of Syria (GoS) affiliates and agents looking for opportunities to gain a foothold in Deir ez-Zor, seeking to overwhelm the SDF and destabilize the situation. Taking advantage of the moment of instability, several groups of clansmen have made statements against the SDF leadership and its presence in Deir ez-Zor and launched fresh attacks on SDF checkpoints. Meanwhile, actors within the Syrian National Army (SNA) and affiliated political structures in Turkish-occupied northern Syria, as well as in Idlib, have also sought to take profit of the situation, stoking the notion of ‘anti-Kurdish’ uprisings in order to politicize the situation more and use it against the SDF.

The SDF, meanwhile, has continued trying to secure the area by reinforcing checkpoints and taking control of main streets. The situation is still evolving, and violent clashes are ongoing, with the numbers of dead and injured rising, and civilians are confirmed to be amongst the casualties. So far, the Baggara tribe, which dominates the western section of Deir ez-Zor, has not formally involved itself, and its area of Deir ez-Zor remains relatively calm. Sheikhs and notables from the tribe held a meeting in the house of Sheikh Hashem al-Bashir to discuss the events. Among the 4 main tribes in Deir ez-Zor, Al-Bakir, Baggara, Bukamil, and Shaitat, there are many individuals within the latter three that are firmly against Abu Khawla, however the situation has expanded beyond just his arrest.

Deir ez-Zor

Deir ez-Zor was the last region in NES to be liberated from ISIS. When the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) sprung up, initially as a heterogenous collection of small-scale armed groups tasked with protecting protestors. The FSA soon began to organize itself into larger brigades, and by the summer of 2012, the FSA controlled all the rural areas around Deir ez-Zor, as well as most of the neighborhoods of the city itself. Around the same time, the al-Qaeda spinoff Al-Nusra Front also began to partake in military operations against GoS forces. The rise of Al-Nusra marked a more general shift towards varying degrees of Islamist radicalism among armed FSA factions. ISIS’ emergence the next year largely crushed what was left of the secular opposition in the area. When ISIS took over Deir ez-Zor, after a battle against Al-Nusra that left hundreds of people dead on both sides, its strict application of Islamic law initiated a period of repression, assassinations, and torture.

Two separate military campaigns against ISIS were waged in the Deir ez-Zor region, as the US and Russia raced to establish a presence there. The first, beginning in June 2017, was led by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), with Russia and Iranian backing. The second was led by the SDF, with Coalition air support. The result of those two separate campaigns is that the Deir ez-Zor governorate, as originally delimited by the GoS, is today split into two: the Euphrates River constitutes the border between GoS-controlled land to the west, including the city of Deir Ez-Zor itself, and AANES-controlled land to the east, which runs down to the Iraqi border. As such, references to ‘Deir ez-Zor’ as being under the control of the AANES and SDF refer to the eastern countryside between the Euphrates and the Iraqi border, rather than the city itself.

Following the conclusion of the SDF’s liberation campaign in Deir ez-Zor, the AANES were faced with the task of re-building a region crippled from the fighting and a population emerging from years under ISIS’ rule. The FSA, Al-Nusra and ISIS all looted even the most basic infrastructure such as electricity cables, pipes and pumps, meaning total reconstruction from the ground up was necessary following liberation. The implementation of the AANES governance model has been slowly progressing, within a difficult security situation. Extensive efforts have been put into the construction of Civil Councils to manage town and regional affairs, with each council comprised of various committees working on different issues such as health, justice, education, or economy. In 2023, Deir ez-Zor’s first cooperatives were opened, including one for making cement blocks, crucial for construction work. Women’s organizations, chiefly Zenobia, have endeavored to bring women’s issues, rights, and leadership to the foreground, with impressive efforts undertaken to counteract the oppression women suffered under ISIS.

Justice Office building, Al-Kasra.

Locals still report shortages in all areas, from water, pharmacies, electricity, food, and housing through to employment. Led by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), there have been numerous consultation sessions with tribal leaders, opposition figures, activists, and ordinary civilians, regarding services provision, power devolution, and reforms. The holding of such consultations has in itself been a victory for the region, with civilians able to openly voice their criticisms and suggestions in a public sphere. A common complaint from locals in the public consultations is frustration with the slow pace of redevelopment in their towns. Everyday life has become increasingly difficult as NES is not spared from the economic crisis gripping Syria. After years of war and oppression, the focus of the average family remains on survival and providing the best life they can for their children, in the face of multiple obstacles. Mohammed Hassoun Al-Rajab, co-chair of the Deir ez-Zor Civil Council, says to RIC that the, “the situation of poor financial resources is tied to the absence of a political solution for the Syrian crisis”. Deir ez-Zor used to have many factories, almost all of which are now inoperable in the SDF-held territories. The Deir ez-Zor Civil Council’s building is now located in an old sugar factory. Fawaz al-Atash, who works in the Water Authority of the Civil Council, tells RIC that fixing water pipes after the destruction of ISIS was – and remains – a key priority, especially in the agriculturally-rich countryside. “We extended the water system to provide drinkable water for the Al-Badiya camp, with a special water station for them. Now we are preparing a project which is a huge tank with a capacity of about 700 cubic meters, which aims to provide drinkable water for makeshift camps in the Badia [the desert area]”. When asked about the public protests related to deteriorating living conditions he says, “the people’s demands are normal, related to the economic situation: increasing prices, the increase in the value of the dollar, which affects everything. The imposed sanctions on Syria heavily affect us too.” He then moves on to comment on the lack of water in the Euphrates River, lamenting the impact on agriculture: “Deir ez-Zor’s region is an agricultural area, but Turkey has been cutting off the water flow for more than two years, which is hurting our agriculture. The lands here should be fertile.” Najwa Mohamed al-Hussain, who also works in the Water Authority office, references last year’s cholera outbreak in NES, saying that “the low level of water in the Euphrates contributed to the spreading of the infection.” She says that there are 7 main water units in Deir ez-Zor, consisting of 72 water stations. They function partly using electricity and partly using diesel fuel. There are two kinds of stations; that which provide ‘crude’ water directly, and that which filter and purify the water first. “We receive support from the Autonomous Administration for fuel; it provides a certain amount to the stations, an amount that can operate the stations so we can provide water to the people, but not a huge amount that is enough for us”, she says. “We need special support for the central line [stations], and general support for the eastern line like the stations of Al-Busayrah. The main station there did not see any works completed and we have not received any NGO help. Many parts need changing, and new valves are needed, control panels need to be bought. Here in Al-Kasra too, there are many villages without water, and there are many necessities for the stations, as already mentioned, so we can’t operate them perfectly. The Autonomous Administration said we can’t do this all alone, and it would be a help if foreign NGOs could assist.”

In Deir ez-Zor, like in the rest of NES, the AANES has begun to implement radical changes for women in society. These changes mark an obvious shift from ISIS’ rule, with its notoriously brutal treatment women, but also offer a difference compared to women’s treatment by the GoS. Despite limited tokenism, under Assad women were considerably discriminated against in law, particularly in the fields of marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. While the legal age for marriage is 18 for men and 17 for women, marriage is typically allowed from the age of 13. The Syrian judicial system also adopts a lenient approach to ‘honor killings’, or murders motivated by the conception that the victim harmed the reputation of their family or tribe, and mostly perpetrated against women. Nor are there any law that prohibited domestic violence.

Under ISIS, the situation for women declined rapidly. Women were stripped of virtually all rights, and their role was explicitly limited to that of a housewife or mother. They were considered the property of their husband, or that of another male member of the family before getting married and enjoyed no autonomy whatsoever. Nowadays, the AANES-linked women’s movement seeks to promote women’s independence and active engagement in the new political process. This includes opening all-female educational institutions; setting up a new justice system which challenges previous, patriarchal models of justice; supporting women to achieve economic independence; and creating the possibility for women to participate in all-female security and defense forces. This is occurring in slowly and unevenly in Deir ez-Zor, in the context of a strong tribal culture based on male authority.

Zenobia is the organization at the core of the efforts of the women’s movement in the Arab-majority regions of NES. Sharhrzad Al-Jassem, a member of Zenobia Deir ez-Zor, tells RIC in an interview that in the beginning, the key tasks for the women involved in Zenobia were to spread awareness among the women in the community about women’s rights and why Zenobia was opening centers in various towns. She describes how, “we faced many difficulties regarding this matter, but over time we were able to overcome them by intensifying visits to the community, spreading awareness between people and give lectures regarding topics such as underage marriage, polygamy… ISIS made a devastating change in people’s minds, and we must not belittle the persecution and violence that happened here”. She explains that during the rule of ISIS, “women had no place and no rights in the community. They were trapped at home.” Pre-existing factors such as patriarchal mentalities, authoritarianism, and “archaic” customs and traditions also are difficult to overcome, she adds. Al-Jassem illustrates how “al-Nusra began imposing prohibiting laws on women, but ISIS was the final blow to Deir ez-Zor. There was retribution, beating, killing, flogging in the streets, imprisonment in cages. Women saw the worst types of torture.” In that time, “fathers were marrying their daughters who were 13 years old to a 50-year-old man or giving them to any man from ISIS for a paltry sum. So, what we live now we consider a great achievement, and we see how women have made a mark in policy, military, civil and co-chair spheres.”

Sharhrzad Al-Jassem, Zenobia.

Another member of Zenobia, Laila Al-Abdullah, states: “I lived here during the periods of the Syrian regime, the Free Army, al-Nusra Front, ISIS, and the Autonomous Administration. […] We are currently experiencing a renaissance of women’s freedom. […] Women can enter the political field, open projects on their own, become leaders within the co-chair system.” Sana Muhammad, a third member, opines that, “the presence of customs and traditions in society and the ideology of ISIS terminated women and marginalized them majorly. I lived under ISIS. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life”. She says that the changes seen for women since the advent of the AANES in Deir ez-Zor are notable. “Initially, during our visits as Zenobia, we encountered repulsion. People thought we were working for something useless. But we met with women and discussed with them. Women actually started asking for more meetings.”

All three of the women interviewed speak of the double murder that took place at the beginning of the year, when Abu Khawla’s brother and bodyguard tortured and killed two girls named Najla and Izdihar. Al-Jassem explains: “The two girls were taken because their cousin was talking to the sister of Abu Khawla. When Abu Khawla found out, he tortured the young man, cut his ears – which is one of the torture methods used by ISIS. When the bodies of the two girls were found in the area of Al-Sour, some media were claiming it was ISIS. Yet witnesses said that they saw a DMC car raid the house to take the girls. Actually, they were looking for the cousin, but the guy wasn’t there – he fled to the Syrian regime side – so they took the girls instead. Abu Khawla came out and said that the crime was being politicized by the Syrian regime to destabilize security. But then why was the Military Council’s car going to the two girls’ house? Is it possible that you are a military commander and you do not know where your cars go, or what your brother does? After this incident, confidence in the Military Council was lost. For us women, when we see the Military Council’s cars, we know they had a part in killing the two girls.” RIC also talks with two members of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in Al-Kasra, western Deir ez-Zor. They bring up the issue of the mindset imposed by ISIS. “Women couldn’t go out or have their voices heard in that time – and the biggest difficulty today is that this mentality is still there. Fear is there. There have still been many killings of women.” One of the female Asayish officers in Deir ez-Zor tells RIC that due to “harsh and conservative mentalities” many women are not even considering being able to join the Asayish or YPJ. Of the 6,000 Asayish in Deir ez-Zor, 54 are women. “Still”, she adds, “before there were none.”

The justice system in Deir ez-Zor has also undergone significant reformation. While the GoS, Al-Nusra and ISIS all implemented varying forms of punitive justice, the AANES aims to implement a form of restorative justice. Justice reform in AANES has seen a dramatic shift away from the infamous GoS penal system. The new justice system in NES is marked by the rule of law and relative transparency. 20 years is the maximum sentence which can now be handed down for any crime in NES. Visitation rights for visitors and reduction of sentences for good behavior are also now implemented across NES. As well as making these top-down reforms, the AANES has also sought to implement bottom-up justice to reduce the number of cases which would require judicial intervention or a prison sentence. One of the first steps taken was the establishment of regional Reconciliation Committees. They aim to enable people to resolve their issues from the village and neighborhood level up. In Al-Kasra town, Daoud Khaled al-Daimam of the Reconciliation Committee tells RIC: “The most common issues that come to us are related to inheritance, land, and debt.  The issues that make it difficult for us are inheritance but we can say that 60% of these cases are resolved with us, and the others are transferred to the Court of Justice where they are solved legally.  Inheritance is difficult because it can take a religious aspect and require the presence of a Sharia judge.” He adds that: “The basis for reconciliation is the consent of both parties. If one of the parties is not satisfied, we do not accept reconciliation. In reconciliation, everyone who can help and solve the problem between the two parties can enter with the reconciliation committee, and not necessarily only the approved committee. Sometimes there are people who have knowledge and influence to satisfy all parties, and they are not among the reconciliation committee members. If all attempts to reconciliation fail, the committee makes a report and submits it to the court to take action according to the law.” Mazen Al-Tabban, another Reconciliation Committee member says that in the first two years following liberation from ISIS, the Committee had to do a lot of work secretly but says now ISIS cells have decreased a lot and they “no longer affect our work much”, whereas previously, “the majority of people were afraid of ISIS cells and did not resort to the Reconciliation Committees”. Yet, attacks on the Reconciliation Committee administration directly persist, Al-Daimam asserts. “Two of our co-workers were killed in 2019. In recent months too, our colleague Amelh Al-Mushissen was killed in Al-Shuhail area, and Jassim Al-Amo was shot in the foot. Such attacks on us have become normal.” Al-Tabban adds that, “the females in the Reconciliation Committee are exposed to more pressure than men. But the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor is different than the western countryside. The eastern countryside there are still more ISIS cells there, and women have to wear the full dress.”







Mazen Al-Tabban and Daoud Khaled al-Daimam, Reconciliation Committee, Al-Kasra.

ISIS, although defeated territorially, remains a threat in Deir ez-Zor, with active sleeper cells working to destabilize the region, by targeting SDF checkpoints, Arab sheikhs, and any individuals affiliated with the AANES, as attested to in RIC’s monthly sleeper cell reports. The Coalition and the SDF conduct frequent joint campaigns to dismantle sleeper cells. As the last bastion of the caliphate, and the main ISIS gateway to Iraq, the eastern most quarter of SDF-held Deir ez-Zor sees a heavily unstable security situation. Vast expanses of desert there, extending into the northern quarter too, make the region a difficult place to secure militarily, and some locals are forced to collaborate with sleeper cells out of fear or lack or other options. Mohammed Hassoun Al-Rajab, co-chair of the Deir ez-Zor Civil Council tells RIC that, “the biggest challenge in Deir ez-Zor is security, as ISIS cells are still in the area – there are also cells working for the Syrian regime and Turkey too.” Fawaz al-Atash, the manager of the Water Authority of the Civil Council, says, “all of us who work with the Autonomous Administration receive threats from different parties: from ISIS, from the Turkish MIT, and the Syrian Regime, but operating under ISIS’ name. ISIS declared responsibility for many assassinations. Here, our colleague Abu Rawan was subjected to an assassination attempt; they shot his legs.”

At the same time, the Deir ez-Zor region is the staging-ground for a power conflict between the US, Iran, and Russia, with the US bolstering its presence in the AANES-governed land east of the Euphrates in order to obstruct Iran’s aim of creating a land belt through Syria to Lebanon and the Mediterranean. Along the western banks of the Euphrates (government-controlled), Iranian militias associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) dominate, while Russia keeps a lower profile. Pro-Damascus and Iranian forces have sought to accelerate and extend the impact of ISIS’ sleeper cell campaign in NES regions by conducting their own insurgent attacks, including assassinations. The SAA does not take responsibility for pro-Damascus insurgent attacks, creating uncertainty regarding the extent to which ISIS’ actions are being aided and abetted by Damascus or Tehran. The GoS and its backers are actively recruiting tribal members to join their militias but have had little success securing defections from the SDF, despite Russian attempts to support these endeavors. This is due in large part to better pay, conditions and support on the SDF’s side.

GoS destabilization attempts go beyond military endeavors. Al-Daimam describes how, “the Syrian Regime creates political problems on the level of society, making trouble between the Autonomous Administration and the tribes.” However, Al-Rajab tells RIC that there is not always cohesion with the tribes themselves, saying, “here, within one tribe, you might find a part that supports ISIS, a part that supports the regime, another part that supports the Autonomous Administration, and a part the supports the Syrian Free Army, which creates social issues.” Fethi Al-Etesh, the vice chair of the Presidency Commission in the Civil Council clarifies that, “we don’t say that the tribes collaborate against the Autonomous Administration, since the Autonomous Administration here is itself based on and formed by the sons of the tribes, but there are several people who are against us and who are weak when it comes to money, which the Regime and others take advantage of. In fact, there is a big gathering around the Autonomous Administration and the SDF by the sons and sheikhs of the tribes. We all want a political solution under Resolution 2254 that preserves the rights of all components of Syria. “Al-Rajab also brings up the issue of drug networks: “Being so close to areas under the Regime’s control creates difficulties, as there is disorder from drug dealing.” Both Assad and his family, as well as Iranian militias, have been linked to the booming Captagon production and smuggling industry in Syria. Al-Etesh says he is aware of 4 active drug factories on Deir ez-Zor’s western bank of the Euphrates: “One in Al-Mayadin, one in the village of Keriyya, one in Ghazi Ayash, and one in Al-Bukamal. They are Iranian factories and the income they generate is used to pay Iranian cells. Due to the soft borderline between us and the Regime – the Euphrates River – it is easy for other parties to spread drugs in our region. No power could stop these security breaches. Actually, here there are not huge amounts of drugs coming, but we want that this phenomenon be totally eliminated. We want the factories destroyed. Even in Damascus, there is a factory owned by the former defense minister to produce canned food, which is involved in drug production, so the Regime also benefits from this industry, not just the Iranian militias. The Regime does not produce anything for its economy; it depends on drugs.” Abd Al-Rzaaq Al-Raheem, the vice co-chair of the Civil Council, laments that, “the spreading of drugs here will destroy a whole generation. The drugs in Deir ez-Zor are not a joke. Out of every 4 young people, 3 are into drugs. The length of the borderline with the Syrian government is 250km, so it is hard to cover and secure that distance. We also need rehabilitation centers for those who are addicted, so they can recover and not make an impact on other people.” Al-Etesh notes that the SDF formed an anti-drugs agency in every region and that, “this did reduce the amounts of drugs in our region.” Al-Etesh explains that many people formerly living on the GoS side of the Euphrates have come to the eastern side, “due to poverty and corruption”, leading to camps for displaced people and migrants springing up in the countryside.

RIC speaks with a group of sheikhs and notables from the Baggara tribe, who explain that tribal dealings with different actors who controlled the area over the years of the war were necessary in order to guarantee the security of the tribe. “Some young men joined the [Syrian Free Army] factions because they believed in the ideology, some followed their interests, and some just because the factions controlled the region”, says Ghadfan al-Habash, who comes from the Albu Muslim Abdi clan. He says that the arrival of the Autonomous Administration brought some stability, “in terms of the existence of an administration that manages the affairs of the region, a civil administration”, but adds that, “the people are suffering due to the economic situation. Year after year, the poverty rate increases. Education is not as it should be due to curriculum disputes. The security situation is getting better gradually, which brings investments and helps the economic situation. But there is a lack of job opportunities, especially for young people. If there is no political solution for Syria, there will be no real improvements.”

Baggara tribe sheikhs and notables.

Several of the Baggara notables interviewed bring up the role of the Coalition, frustrated that, “all these allied countries, including the US are unable to provide a good life for the citizens in North and East Syria”. The Coalition’s willingness to involve itself military in NES in the fight against ISIS, but parallel unwillingness to work on securing better socio-economic conditions – which would also give people less reasons or necessity to join ISIS – was continually mentioned. “If people do not have their daily sustenance, they will not believe in the administration”, says Abdul Karim Najm Al-Salman Arafa Al-Baggara. “Our region used to feed all of Syria with bread, but now it cannot support itself. We are now facing the problem of out-migration due to the living conditions. The three essentials of life are water, electricity and safety. Despite the presence of the Euphrates River and Dam, there is no water or electricity”, he continues. Al-Habash says it is contradictory that, “we achieved a victory on the world level [against ISIS], not only removing a danger from our regions but keeping it away from Europe and the rest of the world”, yet now the Coalition don’t provide more to ensure decent standards of living and rebuild the destroyed infrastructure. “But”, he asserts, “we don’t say “give us food”, we say, “make Turkey let the river flow” and we will make our own food”.

Al-Kasra countryside, western Deir ez-Zor.