Sir, Erika Solomon is right to highlight how the struggle for control of Wadi Barada, the main source of Damascus’s water supply, has the potential to derail Syria’s countrywide ceasefire deal (“Syrians suffer water shortages as clashes threaten peace deal”, January 10). What requires further explanation however is why the people of Wadi Barada were so angry with the Assad government that they were among the first to join the uprising in 2011. Their villages in the valley had suffered the same historic neglect and corruption as many other rural areas in Syria, but in recent years, as part of President Bashar al-Assad’s programme of carefully controlled capitalism for well-connected elites, Wadi Barada residents had watched with impotence as new state land measures legalised the confiscation of whole hillsides of private land for the holiday homes, luxury hotels and riding clubs of wealthy Damascus weekenders.

Tarred as “terrorists” by Mr Assad and accused of contaminating the Ain al-Fijeh spring water with diesel, the villagers are themselves cut off from water, as well as electricity, mobile and internet connection. UN, Red Cross and Russian officials have been refused access by Hizbollah checkpoints. The media blackout will enable their Shi’a militias to continue “cleansing” the valley, aided by Syrian helicopters dropping barrel bombs with chlorine, then heroically to restore the water which the Damascus Water Authority itself cut off in the first place.

Diana Darke

London SW15, UK

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