PR: International Activists Block Ilisu Dam Site

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Amazon indigenous leaders join protest demanding protection of World Heritage site in Turkey


Hasankeyf, Turkey: Representatives of dam-affected communities and international organizations from South America, the Middle East, Europe, the US and Africa blocked the entrance to the construction site of the Ilisu Dam in southeast Turkey today, demanding an end to the controversial development that would flood Hasankeyf, a Bronze Age city and World Heritage site.

International activists stand in solidarity against Turkey's Ilisu Dam, which threatens to drown Hasankeyf, a World Heritage site
International activists stand in solidarity against Turkey's Ilisu Dam, which threatens to drown Hasankeyf, a World Heritage site

Twenty people including Kayapó Chief Megaron Txucarramae – one of Brazil’s most well-known indigenous leaders in the struggle in the Amazon – held up banners in English and Turkish reading “Rivers Unite, Dams Divide: Stop Ilisu and Belo Monte dams.” Delegates from an international conference held in Istanbul last Saturday – including 2013 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner Azzam Alwash of Nature Iraq, Jason Rainey of International Rivers and Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch – joined local protestors in solidarity with their struggle to stop the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris, Turkey’s last free-flowing river.

“Today’s protest comes on the heels of a massive occupation of the Belo Monte Dam site earlier this month by indigenous people from around the Amazon. People are calling for inclusion in development decisions that affect their territories. Both protests called on governments to find truly sustainable alternatives to meet energy needs while protecting rivers – the arteries of our planet – and the ancient cultures and communities of the Amazon and Mesopotamia” said Jason Rainey, Executive Director of International Rivers.

The Belo Monte Dam in Brazil and the Ilisu Dam in Turkey are two examples of the many controversial mega-dam projects in the world today. Both dams threaten cultural and natural hotspots, would inflict devastating social and environmental consequences, and would displace over 75,000 people in Amazonia and Mesopotamia. The Ilisu Dam, located a few kilometers from the Iraqi border, would also affect the livelihood of the Marsh Arabs living downstream in the newly restored Basra Marshes in Iraq.

“The peace process cannot be completed without the cancellation of the controversial Ilisu Dam project and the protection of Hasankeyf. At the same time, damming the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and stopping their flow from reaching Syria and Iraq is a contradiction to Turkey’s ‘zero problems’ policy with its neighbors because the increasing water crisis in the Mesopotamian basin may lead to increased conflict,” said Dicle Tuba Kilic, Rivers Program Co-ordinator for Doga (BirdLife Turkey).

Legal and political controversies have surrounded the push to build the Belo Monte and Ilisu dams. No adequate Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out for either dam, and both governments have failed to implement prior consultations and mitigation plans to protect the environment and rights of affected communities. Both dams are proceeding despite court rulings halting their construction and widespread national and international opposition.

“Our struggle to preserve the Xingu River from the Belo Monte Dam is no different from the fight to protect the Tigris River from the Ilisu Dam. We are unified in our positions to say ‘no’ to our governments. You cannot kill a river that sustains its people and culture,” said Kayapó Chief Megaron Txucarramae.

Today's protest is a clear signal of the solidarity of communities and organizations around the world who are uniting in the face of governments and corporations steamrolling their human rights and environmental protections. Local Kurdish and Turkish protestors were joined by activists from Argentina, Kenya and Iraq, in addition to those working in solidarity with their struggles from the Amazon, the US and Europe.

Media contacts: 

Dicle Tuba Kilic, Rivers Program Coordinator, Doga +90 549 801 0082 (Turkey)
Brent Millikan, Amazon Program Director, International Rivers,  +55 61 8153 7009 (Brazil)

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