The Ilisu Dam: a critical juncture: Open Letter to Jeremy Hunt MP

Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP
Foreign Secretary
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH

10 June 2019
Dear Foreign Secretary,

 The Ilisu Dam: a critical juncture

Over the past two decades, we have written to your predecessors on numerous occasions to express our grave concerns over the adverse environmental, social and geopolitical impacts of the Ilisu Dam on the River Tigris in Turkey, which is now nearing completion. The Turkish Government has now announced its intention to start filling the reservoir on or after 10 June 2019.

You will recall that in 2001 the UK construction company Balfour Beatty, which had been seeking UK  export credit support for the project, withdrew from the project after parliamentarians, experts and non-governmental organisations had expressed their opposition.  Since then, other EU companies have also withdrawn due to environmental, human rights, cultural heritage and other concerns.

The dam was planned without consultation with downstream states, in contravention with international customary law.  Even today, decades after construction began, there is no agreement between Turkey, Syria and Iraq on downstream flows; this despite expert reports suggesting that operation of the dam, in conjunction with a further planned project at Cizre, could reduce the flow of the Tigris during dry years to a trickle. There is a very real fear that the project could seriously jeopardizing the water supply of major Iraqi towns, and put agriculture downstream at risk. The UNESCO site of Mesopotamian Marshes in southern Iraq would be threatened with drying out due to reduced downstream flows. The potential for the dam to exacerbate existing regional conflicts, not least over water, is thus severe, a threat recognised by the FCO under previous administrations.

The dam is opposed internationally. Indeed, the announcement of the proposed filling of the reservoir caused protests in Turkey, Iraq, continental Europe and the UK. A particular focus of concern is the loss of the ancient city of Hasankeyf, a site of international historical and cultural importance whose flooding (should the reservoir be filled) would be a loss not just to the region but to humanity as a whole. The threat posed by the Ilisu Dam project prompted the World Monuments Fund to list the city on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world. Continue reading “The Ilisu Dam: a critical juncture: Open Letter to Jeremy Hunt MP”

Julie Ward MEP Sends an Open Letter to Turkish Prime Minister about the Ilisu Dam

The following letter was sent to the Turkish Prime Minister by UK Member of the European Parliament Julie Ward:

“President Erdoğan,

I am writing to express my utmost concern regarding the announcement of the filling of the Ilisu Dam on June 10th, 2019.

As you know, filling this dam will have disastrous consequences for the downstream areas of the Tigris river, and in particular for Hasankeyf. The cultural heritage of this city is unmatched, spanning nine civilisations. For 12,000 years, it has been a site of uninterrupted human settlement. Dozens of cultures have left their mark on Hasankeyf.

Continue reading “Julie Ward MEP Sends an Open Letter to Turkish Prime Minister about the Ilisu Dam”


Mesopotamian Ecology Movement, Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, The Corner House and Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Rt Hon. Theresa May MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA

April 28, 2018

Dear Prime Minister,

The Ilisu Dam and Turkey’s use of water as a weapon of war

We write as civil society organizations to draw your attention to the imminent impoundment by Turkey of the Ilisu Dam on River Tigris in contravention of international customary law relating to shared waterways, which requires negotiation and agreement on downstream flows. The announced impoundment of Ilisu comes at a time when Turkey is recklessly and illegally using water as a weapon of war against Northern Syria, denying those affected of their right to water, threatening to exacerbate the existing conflicts in the region and causing severe suffering to those who have already suffered seven years of brutal civil war. We would urge you to protest Turkey’s intended impoundment of Ilisu and to use all available diplomatic means to mediate a peaceful and fair settlement between Turkey, Syria and Iraq on the use of their shared rivers. Continue reading “OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY”

Global Hasankeyf Action Day

Mr Abdurrahman Bilgic
Turkish Embassy UK
43 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8PA

Dear Ambassador,
We write as civil society groups, public intellectuals, parliamentarians and concerned global citizens to express our support for protests today in Turkey and elsewhere around the world against the planned Ilisu Dam in SE Turkey and the wanton destruction of globally important cultural heritage that this will involve.

The dam has been rejected for funding by governments in several European Union countries and by the World Bank, due to its social, environmental, cultural and downstream impacts. If completed, it would destroy the livelihoods of up to 80.000 people, mainly Kurds, in 199 villages and Hasankeyf. The vast majority would end up in poverty and debt. Hasankeyf and hundreds of more sites of 12.000 human history would be flooded without to be excavated seriously, a “development” with the culture, history and nature would be made impossible. The mostly natural river ecosystems of up to 400 km length would also be affected without the impacts having been properly investigated. The impacts on people in Iraq, particularly in the southern Mesopotamian Marshes, would be extremely grave too as they depend mainly on the rivers for agriculture and drinking water supply.
Continue reading “Global Hasankeyf Action Day”

 Worldwide actions for Hasankeyf! Stop Ilisu Dam!

+++ Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive +++

23.09.2017, Statement on the 2nd Global Hasankeyf Action Day

Today in 16 cities actions have been organized against the Ilisu Dam at the Tigris River, one of the most worldwide controversial dams. If completed the Ilisu Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant Project with its expected grave social, ecological, cultural and downstream impacts would become a large scale disaster.
Continue reading ” Worldwide actions for Hasankeyf! Stop Ilisu Dam!”

Ilisu Dam’s construction may be continued after a 4 month halt

We received the press release below from theInitiative to keep Hasankeyf Alive, which brings news that the Turkish State Hydraulic Works (DSI), which is in charge of the construction of the highly criticised Ilisu Dam, has announced they will continue working on the site immediately:

Press Release


Ilisu Dam’s construction may be continued after a 4 month halt! 

Stop Ilisu – stop destruction and instability!

The Turkish State Hydraulic Works (DSI) has announced few days ago that after a four month break that the construction of the highly criticized Ilisu Dam and Hydroelectric Powerplant Project will continue immediately. If the construction starts again, the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River may be finished next year which would lead to a huge social, cultural and ecological destruction and also a higher political instability. Continue reading “Ilisu Dam’s construction may be continued after a 4 month halt”

New research paper: Security, development, and the Greater Anatolia Project

Here we republish a paper by Arda Bilgen for Research Turkey on the relationship between security and development in the context of Turkey’s Greater Anatolia Project, one of the largest river basin development projects in the world and the largest single development project carried out by Turkey. It includes plans to build 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants, all on lands with 90% Kurdish population.



A Static Nexus or a Dynamic Network? Rethinking the Security-Development Relationship within the Context of Southeastern Anatolia Project


The concepts of security and development have been central to the theory and practice of international affairs. Even though there is little sense of common agreement within both arenas, there is a seeming consensus among international organizations, key think-tanks, and university-based research that security and development are interconnected. Arguably, the political and bureaucratic elite of Turkey has also long assumed that fusing security and development was desirable and would produce positive outcomes. The Southeastern Anatolia Project (Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP in its Turkish acronym), the large-scale, multi-sectoral regional development project initiated in early 1980s in Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, sets a good example as to how the elite has conceived development–GAP in particular–as a complementary means to deal with Turkey’s Kurdish question and to maintain peace and security. This study examines this “nexus” between security and development and discusses the common and contrasting functions of these concepts with specific focus on how they were conceived within GAP framework. The study emphasizes that although it has become fashionable to talk about such a “nexus”, the relationship between security and development is far from being simple, static, and one-dimensional, and linking these concepts do not always lead to positive results. Therefore, the study puts forward an alternative approach and emphasizes that conceiving security-development relationship as a dynamic network of interconnections is a more flexible, inclusive, and fruitful approach.

Continue reading “New research paper: Security, development, and the Greater Anatolia Project”

Diversion of Tigris river completed, construction of actual dam starting

A new construction phase was celebrated at the Ilisu dam site with a big ceremony last week: The Tigris river has been diverted at the construction site now flowing through three big tunnels. This diversion will be maintained for several years. Now the construction of the actual dam in the dry river bed begins.

Construction of the Ilisu Dam begins

The Turkish Minister of the Environment Veysel Eroglu called the Ilisu dam an “important strategic and economic project”.  He stated that the project will be finished in summer 2014. After that it will take one more year to flood the reservoir.

It remains unclear, whether by “strategic” he is addressing the national Turkish-Kurdish conflict or the international consequences (mainly for Iraq). Once the Ilisu dam operates, Iraq will be even more dependent Turkish water policies. The livelihoods of about 6 Million people in Iraq depend on the Tigris river by using the water for irrigation or fishing. By cutting down the water flow, Ilisu will also put an end to the Mesopotamian Marshes, culturally and ecologically one of the most important areas worldwide. Continue reading “Diversion of Tigris river completed, construction of actual dam starting”

Heritage before Hydropower: Petition to UNESCO on Ilisu Dam launched

A petition to UNESCO has been initiated by an international coalition of environmental and human rights organisations, to fight to protect World Heritage sites in Turkey which are threatened by the construction of the Ilisu Dam. You can view GegenStrömung – CounterCurrent’s  press release below. Continue reading “Heritage before Hydropower: Petition to UNESCO on Ilisu Dam launched”

Turkish Nature Organisation protests at the Topkapi Palace

Illisu Protest Jan2012nsmail-3Protests against the Ilisu Dam project, which would displace thousands of people in the Tigris Valley if it is built, took place outside the Topkapi Palace last week. Below is a statement released by the The Turkish Nature Association Doga Dernegi:


Planned Ilisu dam will inundate 12,000-year history including the ancient town of Hasankeyf Continue reading “Turkish Nature Organisation protests at the Topkapi Palace”