Ilisu Dam

blood divider

The prospects for peace in the Middle East would be enhanced if the region's fresh water were properly conserved. -- Robin Cook, UK Foreign Secretary

We strengthen our environmental policy by having a foreign policy that stands up for democracy, human rights, accountability and openness. If people have no voice, their leaders have no interest in the environment. -- Robin Cook, UK Foreign Secretary

This project is a disgrace. It will further add to the risk of conflict in one of the most unstable parts of the world. The whole thing makes nonsense of the Foreign Office's ethical and environmental policies. -- Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth

We have to stop this project before the British government is party to fermenting war in the Middle East, destroying part of the homelands of the Kurdish people and major environmental destruction. -- Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth

Ilisu must be considered a prominent test case for the policy coherence between export credit agencies and bilateral as well as multilateral development institutions. Will the governments of OECD countries fund a project which violates the most basic guidelines of development finance which they have collectively established and approved? -- Peter Bosshard, Berne Declaration

As the question of human rights in South-East Turkey was raised, 40 supporters stood up holding pictures of torture victims. One shareholder looked at a picture of Turkish soldiers holding severed human heads like trophies and said, 'These are probably faked you know, it's easy enough to mock up pictures like this.' -- Mark Thomas

We are astonished that the Foreign Office did not raise any questions about the proposed Ilisu Dam and its effect on the human rights of those living in the region. -- House of Commons International Development Select Committee

The Ilisu Dam is part of a $1.52 billion (excluding financing costs) hydroelectric scheme on the Tigris in Turkish occupied Kurdistan, 65 km upstream of the Turkish border with Syria and Iraq. The scheme is part of the continuing Turkish war against the Kurdish people.

The Ilisu Dam will enable Turkey to control the waters of the Tigris, to deny Syria and Iraq water at the turn of a tap. Filling the reservoir will take at least half the annual flow of the Tigris. Turkey has previously threatened to deny water to Syria and Iraq, and shut the flow of water to a mere trickle.

Water is seen as the resource which will spark the wars of the 21st century. Turkey has refused to support the 1997 UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of Transboundary Waterways. Turkey, along with the other human rights pariahs of China and Burundi, is the only country to refuse to sign the Convention. In the construction and operation of the Ilisu Dam Turkey will be in breach of international agreements with both Iraq and Syria.

Denial of water to Syria and Iraq is likely to be the spark that starts the next Middle East war. As Turkey is a Nato member the rest of Europe could be drawn into a conflict which is not of its making, in which it has no interest.

The Ilisu Dam will flood the heart of Turkish occupied Kurdistan. 52 villages and 15 small towns will be destroyed by the Ilisu Dam, many others partially flooded, an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 people displaced. These to be added to the 3 million displaced Kurds, 4,000 villages destroyed in Turkey's long running war of genocide against the Kurds.

One of the towns to be destroyed is Hasankeyf, a Kurdish town of about 5,500 people. Hasankeyf dates from at least 10,000 years ago, it has survived to date without destruction. Just one of the important jewels within Hasankeyf is the tomb of the holy Imam Abdullah, grandson of Cafer-I Tayyar, the prophet Mohammed's uncle. Hasankeyf has survived nine major civilisations, stretching from the Assyrians through to the Ottomans. Each has added its own cultural layer. Archaeologists have only begun to scratch the surface of what lies buried at Hasankeyf. To the Turks, Hasankeyf represents Kurdish culture, therefore must be destroyed. Having survived 10,000 years, is Hasankeyf to be destroyed by the thugs of Ataturk?

The Ilisu Dam is part of the South East Anatolia Project (GAP), with GW generating capacity. The Ilisu Dam alone will generate 1200 MW. Ostensibly GAP is to bring development to the region, in reality it is a crude attempt to control the Kurds. To date GAP has displaced, without compensation, 100,000 people. There has been no consultation with the people who are to be displaced, no proper social studies, anyone who dares to protest or object is subject to arbitrary arrest and torture. Many villagers have been evicted at gunpoint, their houses razed to the ground.

When environmentalist Nicholas Hildyard and three human rights lawyers visited the area they were followed everywhere they went. People they spoke to were taken away for questioning. When the Times reporter Ann Treneman visited the Ilisu region recently she found in just one day she was followed by 41 different men and a tank. When Mathew Chapman visited the area to produce a programme for BBC Radio 5 Live he was shadowed everywhere by the secret police, they would even barge into interviews and demand to know what was being said. These experiences are not unique. Every fact-finding mission to Turkish occupied Kurdistan encounters the same problem of harassment and repression by the forces of the Turkish state.

Were Turkey to follow the example of its more developed Mediterranean and Middle East neighbours, Greece, Cyprus and Israel, they would invest in solar power. Turkey could also invest in wind turbines, as seen at the wind farms not far from the airport on the south east coast of the island of Tenerife. Were Turkey to address large inefficiencies in its supply distribution system, this one measure alone would recover as much power as GAP is expected to deliver. According to the authors of the as-yet unpublished Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Ilisu Dam, undertaken by Hydro Concepts Engineering of Switzerland, no supply-side or demand-side alternatives to the dam were considered as part of the original feasibility studies undertaken for the project by the Turkish authorities. Were Turkey to follow a soft energy path it would be lessening its dependence on electricity and GAP would not be required.

The World Bank, which itself has a very poor environmental track record, has refused to support the Ilisu Dam on environmental grounds.

Turkey dumps untreated sewage straight into the Tigris. The Ilisu Dam will only lead to a worsening of the pollution. The upstream reservoir will introduce water-borne disease such as malaria to the region.

The Ilisu Dam will prevent seasonal flooding downstream of the dam wrecking the ecosystem and destroying traditional agriculture that has depended on the floods for millennia.

According to Berne Declaration 'Ilisu appears to violate five binding World Bank policies ... on 18 counts.'

Balfour Beatty is the lead contractor in the international consortium proposing to construct the Ilisu Dam. Financial backing is coming from Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US to the sum of around $850 million.

Balfour Beatty will be backed by the British taxpayer to the tune of £200 million. This is one of the ways in which taxpayer's money is transferred to large corporations.

No stranger to scandal, Balfour Beatty was the lead contractor in the Malaysian Pergau Dam. An environmental, financial and political disaster. UK taxpayer's money was used to finance a non-viable dam, the money channelled back to purchase arms from UK defence contractors. Balfour Beatty are being prosecuted in Lesotho for alleged bribery and corruption relating to contracts for another dam project. In the US, Balfour Beatty has been raided by the FBI for fraud.

A small blow for justice was struck when protesters disrupted and shut down the Balfour Beatty May 2000 AGM.

The UK is a major supplier of arms to Turkey. The UK has turned a convenient blind eye to human rights abuses in Turkey (Turkey has one of the world's worst human rights records), the war of genocide against the Kurds in Turkish occupied Kurdistan and the continued occupation of northern Cyprus (even though UK is a guarantor of the independence of Cyprus).

In backing the Ilisu Dam, the UK government is in breach of its own environmental and ethical policy guide lines. An ethical foreign policy that has been examined and found lacking. The UK is also in breach of OECD guide lines for such investments.

Following pressure from environmentalists, the UK Department of Industry has conducted an environmental impact assessment. The conclusions have proved too damning and the DTI has commissioned a second study. FoE is contemplating a legal challenge to force the DTI to release the original report.

UK support for the Ilisu Dam has been condemned by two Parliamentary Select Committees - Trade and Industry (March 2000), International Development (July 2000).

Turkey is rated as high risk for investment. On an international scale of 0-100, Turkey rates 38.6, lower than India, Mexico, Brazil or the Philippines.

The Ilisu Dam violates World Bank guidelines, violates OECD resettlement guidelines, and contravenes the core principles of the 1997 UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of Transboundary Waterways.

Web Resources


Fran Abrams, MPs tell Byers to scrap plan, The Independent, 13 July 2000

Anon, Great boost for Hasankeyf campaign, Kurdistan Report, March-April 2000

Anon, HP Sauce, Private Eye, 30 June 2000

Anon, Dam fine record, Private Eye, 14 July 2000

BBC, Turkish Dam gets UK support, World: Middle East, BBC News online, BBC, 1 March 1999

BBC, UK in court over dam 'secrecy', UK, BBC News online, BBC, 26 June 1999

BBC, British protest against Turkish dam, World: Europe, BBC News online, BBC, 2 July 1999

BBC, Blair under fire over Turkish dam, UK Politics, BBC News online, BBC, 23 December 1999

BBC, The Blair Dam Project, Radio 5 Live, BBC, 6 February 2000

BBC, MPs' anger over Turkish dam, UK Politics, BBC News online, BBC, 12 July 2000

BBC, report on Select Committee Report on Ilisu Dam, World at One, Radio 4, BBC, 12 July 2000

BBC, The 'ethical dimension', UK, BBC News online, BBC, 12 July 2000

Peter Bosshard, The Ilisu Hydroelectric Project (Turkey): A Test Case of International Policy Coherence, Berne Declaration, November 1998

J Briskoe, The Financing of Hydropower, Irrigation and Water Supply Infrastructure in Developing Countries: A Background Paper for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, World Bank, Washington DC, 1998

Kevin Brown, MPs attack export credit proposed for Turkish dam, FT, 13 July 2000

Paul Brown, Britain backs controversial dam: £1bn Turkish scheme threatens Kurd lands, The Guardian, 1 March 1999

Paul Brown, Turkish dam funding condemned, The Guardian, 13 July 2000

Mathew Chapman, Last days of doomed valley, Kurdistan Report, March-April 2000

Noam Chomsky, For many years, Turkish repression of Kurds has been a major scandal, Kurdistan Report, March-April 2000

Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik, Tom Clancy's Op-Centre: Acts of War, Harper Collins, 1997

Tom Dalyell, Westminster Diary, New Scientist, 14 August 1999

FoE, Ethical Foreign Policy - a "Dam Disgrace", Friends of the Earth Press Release, 1 March 1999

FoE, ECGD, UK Ethical Foreign Policy and Environmental Standards, letter to Stephen Byers (UK DTI Secretary of State) from Tony Juniper (Policy and Campaigns Director), Friends of the Earth, 26 February 1999

FoE, Government Refuses to Release Secret Dam Study, Friends of the Earth Press Release, 2 July 1999

FoE, The Least Green of the Lot!: Export Credit Agency Least Green Branch of Government, Friends of the Earth Press Release, 2 August 1999

FoE, Ilisu Dam Scandal: MPs Back Campaigners, Friends of the Earth Press Release, 12 July 2000

David Hencke, Whitehall leaks reveal ethics row, The Guardian, 26 January 2000

David Hencke, Arms, human rights and a question of values, The Guardian, 26 January 2000

David Hencke, Scandal that rocked Tories, The Guardian, 13 July 2000

Nicholas Hildyard, Snouts in the Trough: Export Credit Agencies, Corporate Welfare and Policy Incoherence, The CornerHouse, 1999

Nicholas Hildyard, Turkey's Ilisu Dam, Kurdistan Report, No 29, March-April 2000

Fred Hilmi, Kurdistan, the Dam and the 'Millennium Bug', Kurdistan Report, No 28, July-September 1999

Mehrdad Izady, Dams and the drowning of the Kurdish historical and artistic heritage, Kurdistan Report, No 29, March-April 2000

Tony Juniper, letter, The Guardian, 2 July 1999

Tony Juniper (FoE) & Nicholas Hildyard (Corner House), Letter to PM Tony Blair, Kurdistan Report, No 29, March-April 2000

Kate Geary, New Labour and UK corporate complicity in potential human rights disaster, Corporate Watch, #10, Spring 2000

Christopher Kilburn, Villages of the damned, Science, The Guardian, 27 April 2000

KHRP, The Ilisu Dam: A Human Rights Disaster in the Making, Kurdish Human Rights Project, November 1999

Geoffrey Lean & Jo Dillon, Blair plans to drown Kurd town, The Independent on Sunday, 12 December 1999

Geoffrey Lean & Mark Rowe, Blair's support for dam may speed world's first water war, The Independent on Sunday, 12 December 1999

Daniel McGrory, Britain defies protest over 'dam havoc', The Times, 13 July 2000

George Monbiot, Depraved debt collectors: A shadowy agency underwrites scores of macabre schemes, The Guardian, 14 October 1999

Chris Morris, Villagers left high and dry by tide of progress, The Guardian, 13 July 2000

Chris Morris, Refuge for Turkey's dam victims, World: Europe, BBC News online, BBC, 10 July 2000

Richard Norton-Taylor, Ethical arms policy in disarray, The Guardian, Wednesday 24 June 1998

Keith Parkins, Cyprus - a divided island, July 1998

Keith Parkins, The Arming of Turkey, January 1999

Keith Parkins, Justice in Turkey?, February 1999

Keith Parkins, Soft Energy Paths, June 1999

Fred Pearce, And the waters rushed in ..., New Scientist, 1 May 1999

Melanie Phillips, Newspeak: The words you need to survive the future, The Sunday Times, 26 December 1999

Simon Retallack, ECAs Exposed, The Ecologist, June 2000

Ruth Rosselson, Damned if you do?, ethical consumer, June/July 2000

Jonathan Rugman, British backhanders in Lesotho, Channel Four News, Channel Four, 14 June 2000

SchNEWS, Turkish Delight, SchNEWS, Issue 244, Friday 21 January 2000

SchNEWS, Dam It!, SchNEWS, Issue 259, Friday 19 May 2000

David Shukman, Turkish dam controversy, World: Europe, BBC News online, BBC, 22 January 2000

Mark Thomas, Frankly, the Labour Government should be ashamed of even considering the project, Kurdistan Report, March-April 2000

Michael White, Trade rethink could kill support for Turkish dam, The Guardian, 2 August 1999

Further information on the Ilisu Dam may be obtained from:
Ilisu Dam Campaign, Box 210, 266 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 7DL
tel +44-1865-200-550
Friends of the Earth, 26-28 Underwood Street, London N1 7JQ
tel +44-171-490-1555 / fax +44-171-490-0881
Berne Declaration, Quellenstrasese 25, PO Box 177, CH-8031 Zurich
tel +41 1 271 64 25 / +41 1 272 60 60

Turkey ~ Gaia
(c) Keith Parkins 1999-2000 -- July 2000 rev 11