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  Since then, other EU companies have also withdrawn due to environmental, human rights, cultural heritage and other concerns.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.

At a time when the jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan is calling for a resumption of the peace process between the PKK and the Turkish Government, the filling of the reservoir is a provocation to the local Kurdish population, whose opposition to the dam is widespread.

In the interests of peace, international law and sustainable development, we would therefore urge you to use your good office to underline to the Turkey Government the extent of international concern over the project and to urge that the filling of the reservoir be put on hold  pending:


  1. a mutual agreement with Iraq and Syria guaranteeing sufficient downstream water flows to safeguard water supplies, agriculture and ecosystems (notably the Mesopotamian Marshes) in Syria and Iraq;
  2. the outcome of a broad, participative, inclusive and transparent discussion with representatives of affected communities, both within Turkey and regionally, aimed at evolving policies for the sustainable and equitable use of the Tigris.


We look forward to your response and remain available for any further information.


Yours sincerely,


The Corner House

Peace in Kurdistan

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive

The Mesopotamia Ecology Movement

Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) UK

Kurdish People’s Democratic Assembly, UK

Maxine Peake, actress

Julie Ward MEP

Jill Evans MEP

Margaret Owen OBE, barrister

Dr Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster

Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Cambridge University

Dr Felix Padel, writer

Dr Derek Wall, Department of Politics and International Relations, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Janet Biehl, writer and translator

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary at Napo

Christine Blower, NEU International Secretary

Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, UNITE

Simon Dubbins, International Director UNITE

Matt Nathan, Campaigns Director, Freedom for Ocalan Campaign

Stephen Smellie, Deputy Convenor, UNISON Scotland

Clare Baker, UNITE International Officer

Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions

Mick Wheelan, ASLEF General Secretary

Alan Mardghum, Secretary of Durham Miners Association

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary TSSA

Steve Sweeney, Intgernational Editor, Morning Star

Father Joe Ryan, Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission

Dr. Isabel Käser, SOAS

Rahila Gupta, writer and journalist

Southall Black Sisters (SBS)

Barry White, NUJ member

Emily Apple, journalist, writer

Jonathan Bloch, writer

Dr Sarah Glynn, architect and academic geographer

Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan

Paul Scholey, Morrish Solicitors

Stephen Knight, barrister, Pump Court Chambers

Dr Thomas Phillips, University of Liverpool

Terry Conway, RedGreen Labour

Bruce Kent, peace activist, CND

Dafydd Iwan, former President Plaid Cymru

Christopher Gingell, Ecologist and Archeologist

Tom Anderson, writer, Shoal Collective/The Canary

Dr Aubrey Nunes, Possible Worlds Clinic

Jonathan Steele, journalist

Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition

Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation

Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)

Saleh Mamon, CAMPACC

Kurdistan Solidarity Network

Solidarity Economy Association

Shoal Collective

Shoal Radical Writer’s Collective

London Kurdish Solidarity

Plan C

Pelle Hjek, Ground in Hull

Zaher Aarif, writer and activist

John Hunt, journalist

David Morgan, journalist


For information contact

Peace in Kurdistan

Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question

Estella Schmid

Email: estella24@tiscali.co.uk