|KURDISH MAYOR CANCELS EUROPE WIDE TOUR|
MAYOR OF HASANKEYF RETURNS TO TURKEY
Vahap Kusen, the Mayor of Hasankeyf, the 10,000 year old town threatened with submersion by the controversial Ilisu Dam Project, has unexpectedly returned to Turkey, cutting short a speaking tour of Europe.
However, the public meeting, to be held tonight at 7.00pm in the House of Commons Grand Committee Room, hosted by Rudi Vis MP, will go ahead despite Vahap Kusen's forced absence. Speakers include Lord Avebury, Mark Thomas (comedian and broadcaster), Mark Muller (Bar Human Rights Committee), Tony Juniper (Friends of the Earth), Jean Lambert MEP (Green Party), Kerim Yildiz (Kurdish Human Rights Project), and Martin Hogbin (Campaign Against the Arms Trade).
Vahap Kusen, merely hours into the proposed speaking tour, which was scheduled to include the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, received a series of late night telephone calls from Turkey. As a result of the calls, he felt unable to speak publicly at a press conference held in Paris last Friday, and instead chose to return immediately to Turkey. The events in Paris came only days after the arrest of three HADEP mayors and the sentencing of 18 members of HADEP, including the current president, to more than three years imprisonment.
The Mayor's tour was intended to highlight grassroots concern surrounding the proposed building of the controversial Ilisu Dam Project in South East Turkey. The British company Balfour Beatty is seeking a £200 million export credit guarantee from the UK government.
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project said "This is a typical example of intimidation by the authorities and their agents, explicitly aimed at preventing individuals from expressing their views."
Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, laid down four conditions which must be met before the British government will agree to provide export credit guarantee for the project. These include consultation with the local population as part of the resettlement programme and independent monitoring of any resettlement programme.
Kerim Yildiz commented that "the events surrounding the unexpected and sad return to Turkey of Vahap Kusen only serve to highlight KHRP's argument that conditions for independent monitoring of the project, let alone consultation with local people, do not exist in the south east of Turkey. KHRP urges the Secretary of State to carefully consider, in the light of these recent political developments, the likelihood that the conditions on which he would base the granting of export credit guarantee can possibly be met."
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. The Kurdish Human Rights Project works for the promotion and protection of human rights within the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union.
2. The proposed Ilisu dam, part of Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Project (Turkish initials GAP), will affect some 36,000 people, flood 68 villages and destroy the 10,000 year old city of Hasankeyf.
3. The Ilisu hydro-electric power project is to be situated on the Tigris river, 65 km upstream from the border with Syria and Iraq. With a planned capacity of 1,200 MW, it will be the largest hydro-electric project in Turkey.
4. The project, costing an estimated $2 billion, will be built by an international consortium, led by Swiss company Sulzer Hydro. Companies in the consortium include Balfour Beatty (UK), Impregilo (Italy) and Skanska (Sweden). With the World Bank declining to become involved in GAP projects, the financing is to be arranged by the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), with the Export Credit Agencies of Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA currently considering whether to provide financial support for the project.