Occupied Syrian Golan Wind Turbine Project Poses Existential Threat to Indigenous Syrian Population

Press release
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On 9 September 2019, Israel’s National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) approved a wind energy project on agricultural lands, largely apple and cherry orchards, owned by the Syrian residents of the remaining villages in the occupied Golan. The project, which is slated to be built by Israeli company ’Energix Renewable Energies’ (Energix), is expected to occupy about 4,300 dunams (about 1,100 acres), nearly a quarter of the agricultural land that Syrians still control in the occupied Syrian Golan. The 32-turbine project, approved by Israel’s Cabinet on 12 January 2020, would be one of the largest wind energy plants in territory under Israel’s control and, at a maximum height of 220 meters, would be the largest onshore turbines in the world.

The Israeli state, as occupying authority, approved this project ignoring hundreds of objections submitted by Syrian agriculture cooperatives and individuals, including a comprehensive objection to the project submitted by Al-Marsad - The Arab Human rights Centre in Golan Heights in collaboration with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Planners for Planning Rights (BIMKOM). The objections were filed on behalf of 11 Syrian agricultural cooperatives and civil society groups, which represent thousands of native Syrians. However, the committee rejected all these objections, which demonstrate strong opposition among the vast majority of the Syrian population to this dangerous project.

Energix’s project, if implemented, would have serious consequences for the health and safety of Syrian communities as a result of dangerous exposure to infrasound and flickering. Thus, Syrian farmers and civilians who spend much of their time in the agricultural fields on which the project will be built, and where hundreds of small houses are spread, will be vulnerable to these health impacts, and will be forced to abandon their agricultural lands. According to experts on the fields of agriculture, renewable energy, environment and physics, the project will also lead to irreparable destruction of their traditional agriculture economy of apples and cherries.

Furthermore, the project would heavily restrict the expansion of three of the five remaining Syrian villages in the Golan after 1967 (Majdal Shams, Buq’ata and Masada). This will exacerbate the suffocating housing crisis in the Syrian villages, distort the natural landscape, and threaten wildlife in the region. Additionally, the project’s location has shifted numerous times, including being moved away from Israeli settlements and closer to Syrian villages and inside their farmlands. Information obtained by our organisations indicates that the project entails discrimination against the indigenous Syrian communities of the occupied Golan.

This massive project coincides with the ongoing armed conflict in Syria. The Israeli government has, since 2011, taken advantage of the tragic conflict to cement its illegal occupation and claim to sovereignty over the Golan. Consequently, US President Donald Trump signed in March 2019 an executive order recognising Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan, a move followed by an unprecedented acceleration of settlement expansion in the area.

We, the undersigned organisations, condemn Energix’s project because of its serious repercussions on all aspects of Syrians’ lives in the Golan, and its aims to cement the economic occupation of the Golan. The project violates numerous principles of international humanitarian law, including those enshrined in Article 55 of the 1907 (IV) Hague Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land on the prohibition of pillage and the permanent alteration of occupied land as well as the obligation to administer occupied land as "usufructuary", Therefore, we call on:

the Israeli state, as occupying power,

To fulfill its obligations according to international law by stopping this project and the policy of settlement expansion, and to refrain from making any changes in the occupied Golan, except in cases when the security and well-being of the Syrian population require such changes.

To respect the right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources, customary under international, for the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan.

To cease issuing licences for the exploitation of natural resources in the occupied Syrian Golan and to regulate the activities of Israeli and multinational business enterprises therein in order to ensure respect of international and human rights standards and the genuine consent of the Syrian population before engaging in any projects that extract their natural resources.

To stop using the covid-19 pandemic to expedite this project and impose it on the ground.

the international community,

To exert pressure on the Israeli state to stop implementing the wind turbine project, fulfill its obligations arising from international human rights agreements and conventions and respect the rights of the Syrian population in the occupied Golan

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