Climate change and the Syrian civil war, part II: the Jazira’s agrarian crisis

Selby, Jan (2019) Climate change and the Syrian civil war, part II: the Jazira’s agrarian crisis. Geoforum, 101. pp. 260-274. ISSN 0016-7185

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This article is the second in a series on the alleged links between climate change, drought and the onset of Syria’s civil war. In a previous article it was argued that there is little merit to the Syria-climate conflict thesis, including no clear evidence that drought-related migration contributed to civil war onset. Building on this earlier work, the present article investigates an issue which was not fully analysed in the previous one: the nature and causes of the pre-civil war agrarian crisis in Syria’s northeast Jazira region, and especially in the governorate of Hasakah. This crisis is usually represented as rooted essentially in a severe multi-year drought which, it is claimed, led to multiple crop failures and in turn large-scale migration. Here it is argued, by contrast, that the central causes of Hasakah’s agrarian crisis were long-term and structural, involving three main factors: extreme water resource degradation; deepening rural poverty; and underpinning these, specific features of Syria’s and Hasakah’s politics and political economy. The article contends, most notably, that the exceptional severity of Hasakah’s crisis was a function of the nationwide collapse of Syria’s agrarian and rentier model of state-building and development, combined with Hasakah’s distinctive political geography as an ethnically contested borderland and frontier zone. I thus conclude that rather than supporting narratives of environmental scarcity-induced conflict, the Syrian case actually confirms the opposite: namely, political ecologists’ insistence on the centrality of the political, and of conflict, in causing environmental scarcities and insecurities.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2018 14:55
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2020 08:26

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