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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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On World Water Day 2007 Concerns over Ilisu Dam Project are More Pressing than Ever


On today, World Water Day, KHRP would like to draw renewed attention to the ongoing risk to the residents of south-east Turkey, Iraq, Syria – and indeed the region as a whole-- posed by the Southeast Anatolia Dam Project (GAP), in particular the proposed Ilisu and Cizre dams.

The dams, which are to be built on the river Tigris around 65 kilometres north of the Syrian border pending German, Swiss and Austrian funding, would not only result in the displacement and dispossession of over 50, 000 mainly Kurdish inhabitants of the region. It would also destroy countless sites of enormous historical, cultural and archaeological importance, including the ancient town of Hasankeyf which bears the marks of 9,000 years of Sumerian, Greek, Roman, Kurdish and Arab civilisation. The disregard shown by the project for the cultural heritage of the people of south-east Anatolia reflects the wider policy of restricting cultural, linguistic and political life in the region.


Further, the planned project poses a grave risk to water supplies and, threatens to make water another weapon of war in this already unstable region.  It is estimated that if the Ilisu and Cizre dams go ahead, the water supply to Iraq and Syria will be severely reduced, affecting the lives of millions of people, particularly those who rely on the waters for floodplain agriculture. The Ilisu issue is therefore not simply one of security, but of the basic human right to an equitable share in natural resources.  The Turkish government and the governments considering providing funding to this project are bound by the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. This requires Turkey to adequately notify, consult, and negotiate with Iraq and Syria before beginning this project.  KHRP has learnt that this has not been done, and as such both Turkey and the Swiss, German and Austrian governments risk running in contravention of international law.  

It is fitting that the theme of this year's World Water day is ‘the need for increased integration and cooperation to ensure sustainable, efficient and equitable management of scarce water resources, both at international and local levels'.  This need has never been more pressing than it is today in the Middle East , and the Southeast Anatolia Dam Project is the prime example of the failure to meet this need. To mark World Water Day, KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz stated “Equitable access to water resources is a basic human right, as is the preservation of a people's cultural heritage. The Ilisu dam project would grossly violate these rights, affecting millions of people across south-east Turkey , Iraq and Syria .  KHRP calls on the Turkish government to put a halt to a project that poses grave risks to security and human rights in the region and urges European governments to withhold all funding of it”.



Rachel Bernu/ Walter Jayawardene

Kurdish Human Rights Project
11 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DH
Tel: 020 7405 3835
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Kurdish Human Rights Project is an independent, non-political human rights organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all people in the Kurdish regions. It is a registered charity, founded and based in London

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