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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Reemergence of discredited Ilisu Dam project: Turkish dams violate EU standards and human rights

Plans for large dams in southeast Turkey including the discredited Ilisu dam project may yet go ahead in spite of adverse impacts on cultural and environmental rights, according to a new report by the National University of Ireland, Galway and the Kurdish Human Rights Project [1]. The report provides new evidence from hydroelectric dam projects planned for the Munzur, Tigris and Greater Zap rivers. The study, a report of a fact-finding mission to the region carried out by Maggie Ronayne, Lecturer in Archaeology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, demonstrates how archaeology in particular supports the case of thousands of villagers adversely affected by these projects, most of whom do not appear to have been consulted at all about the dams and many of whom want to return to reservoir areas, having already been displaced by the recent conflict in the region. The overwhelming response in particular from women and their organisations is one of opposition to the negative impact on them and those in their care; yet women have been the least consulted sector.

The reservoirs would submerge evidence for hundreds and potentially thousands of ancient sites of international importance, including evidence of our earliest origins as a species, the beginnings of agriculture, and the remains of empires including those of Rome and Assyria. The heritage of Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians and others from the last few hundred years and holy places from several traditions within the Muslim and Christian faiths, many still used in religious practices today and some dating from over 1000 years ago, will go under the reservoir waters.

According to report author Maggie Ronayne: 'The GAP development project of which these dams are part is destroying a heritage which belongs to the whole of humanity and contravenes the most basic professional standards. Governments and companies involved with these projects are ignoring its serious implications: the destruction of such diverse cultural and religious heritage in a State with a history of severe cultural repression. Turkey's progress on cultural rights for the Kurds and others has been an object of scrutiny in recent years; the EU must consider cultural destruction on this scale in that context.'

One of the major findings of the report is that there is a new consortium of companies coming together to build the discredited Ilisu Dam which would displace up to 78,000 mostly Kurdish people, and would also potentially cut off downstream flows of water to Syria and Iraq. The ancient town of Hasankeyf, culturally important to many Kurdish people and of international archaeological significance, will not be saved by new plans to build the dam despite the promises of the Turkish prime minister and the would-be dam builders. In any case, the cultural impacts of Ilisu are much greater than this one very important town. From 2000 to 2002, campaigners, human rights and environmental groups and affected communities successfully exposed fundamental flaws in project documents and plans for Ilisu, which contributed to the collapse of the last consortium of companies planning to build it. But the basis for the project this time remains essentially the same.

Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project commented: 'It seems that the Turkish State has not learned the lessons of Ilisu: the report finds that a range of international laws and standards are not being adhered to. EU standards in particular are met by none of the projects. The study also shows that while there have been some improvements and legal reforms, torture remains an administrative practice of the State. If this is the climate in which people are to be consulted about the dams, then we can only conclude that any fair outcome for the public appears most unlikely. The GAP development project examined in this study raises serious questions regarding Turkey's process of accession to the EU.'


[1] The report 'The Cultural and Environmental Impact of Large Dams in Southeast Turkey: Fact-Finding Mission Report' (ISBN 1900175851) is available from Kurdish Human Rights Project ( or +44 (0)207 405-3835) or the National University of Ireland, Galway ( or 00 353 91 512298)

For further information please contact:

Maggie Ronayne, Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. Tel: 00 353 91 512298 or 00 353 (0) 87 7838688 (mobile) This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Rochelle Harris - Public Relations Officer
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
0207 405-3835