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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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Iraq Denies Approving Ilisu Dam: Germany, Switzerland and Austria in Potential IL Violation


A joint KHRP-Corner House Press Release:


Iraq Denies Approving Ilisu Dam: Germany, Switzerland and Austria in Potential Violation of International Law


Iraq's Minister of Water, Dr Latif Rashid, has strenuously denied giving Iraq's blessing to the controversial Ilisu Dam, which Turkey plans to build on the Tigris River [1].


The Minister's denial contradicts previous assurances by Turkey and the Governments of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, whose Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) approved funding for the dam in March 2007 [2], on the basis that Iraq had no objections to the dam.

If built, the dam could severely impact on downstream flows of the Tigris, which could be reduced to a trickle in summer months [3]. Turkey has failed to guarantee a minimum downstream flow to Iraq and Syria [4].

Although the ECAs made funding conditional on Turkey first supplying Iraq with the information it sought on the project, the Minister told a joint Kurdish Human Rights Project - Corner House fact-finding mission [5] that key information had still to be provided.

"The ECAs have breached their own conditions", says Nicholas Hildyard, who interviewed Iraq's Minister of Water. "Iraq made known its objections at the highest level. The ECAs appear to have ignored them."

Claims that Turkey, Iraq and Syria came to an agreement over the project at a joint meeting in March 2007 are rejected by Iraq. "All that was agreed was a framework for future talks", the Minister told the fact-finding mission.

"The ECAs have set a dangerous precedent that undermines international law, the environment and human rights", says Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of KHRP. "Under international law, Turkey is obliged to inform, consult and negotiate with Iraq and Syria over any dams it plans on shared rivers."

A legal opinion commissioned by WEED, a German non-governmental organisation, suggests that, by funding the dam before such negotiations have taken place the ECA could be held to have facilitated a violation of international law.


[Kurdish Language Sorani Version pdf]


Editors' Notes:

[1] Scheduled for construction on the River Tigris, some 65 kilometres from the Syrian border, the 1200 Megawatt (MW) Ilisu Dam is Turkey's largest planned hydroelectric project. It will cost an estimated 2 billion Euros.
[2] The three participating Export Agencies are: Austria's ECA Oesterreichische Kontrollbank - OeKB (200 million Euro), Germany's EulerHermes (93,5 million Euros in addition to some100 million Euro in
re-insurance for OeKB) and Switzerland's SERV (225 million CHF = 140 million Euros.
[3] Ilisu is to be built in conjunction with a second dam at Cizre.
Unlike Ilisu, which is solely for hydroelectric generation, Cizre is intended for irrigation and will therefore divert water from the Tigris.
An independent analysis of the two dams by hydrologists Philip Williams and Associates has concluded: "The operation of the Ilisu Dam in combination with diversions from the future downstream Cizre project would probably significantly reduce summer flows in Syria and Iraq below historic levels. . . It is even possible that with full implementation of the Ilisu/Cizre projects, during drought periods, all the summer flows could be diverted before it crossed the border."
[4] Although the ECAs have required that Turkey commit to a minimum downstream flow of 60 cubic metres per second, the condition only applies immediately downstream of the Ilisu Dam itself. There is no requirement to ensure such a release at the border, 65 kilometres downstream.
[5] The full Fact Finding Mission's report - The Ilisu Dam: Downstream Water Impacts and Iraq – is available from this website (see the homepage).