Turkey Deports International Rivers Staff After Peaceful World Water Forum Protest

International Rivers
Monday, March 16, 2009

Press conference to discuss civil society response 11am March 17 at the Taksim Hill Hotel

Istanbul, Turkey - Two International Rivers staff members were arrested and detained today for unfurling a banner at the opening ceremony of the World Water Forum (WWF) in Istanbul. They will be deported tomorrow morning or face a year in Turkish prison.

As the opening ceremony of the WWF began, International Rivers' South Asia Director Ann-Kathrin Schneider and Climate Campaigner Payal Parekh unfurled a banner reading "No Risky Dams" in protest of the World Water Forum's promotion of destructive dams. They shouted slogans as the chair of the World Water Forum and government dignitaries were about to take the stage.

While many WWF participants applauded the protest, the police detained the two protestors. Meanwhile, outside the conference center, riot police used water cannons and tear gas against 150 peaceful protestors who shouted "water for life, not for profit" in opposition to the WWF's agenda of water privatization and river destruction. Seventeen protestors were arrested.

As she was being detained, Payal Parekh saıd: "Large dams have left a legacy of lies and loss. Continuing to build destructive dams brings unacceptable risks to people and the planet."

Ann-Kathrin Schneider said as she unfurled the banner: "The Ilisu Dam in Southeast Turkey is a symbol of outmoded water and energy policies which destroy communities and the environment. We call on the participants of the World Water Forum to embrace smarter and cleaner solutions that are readily available."

Peter Bosshard, International Rivers Policy Director, whose opinion piece on the World Water Forum and large dams was published in today's Turkish Daily News, said "The response by the Turkish authorities highlights the undemocratic nature of the World Water Forum. Two protestors being deported for unfurling a banner is unacceptable. We call on the World Water Council to respect and support the rights of all people to speak freely and peacefully protest."

The World Water Forum takes place every three years. It is organized by the World Water Council, a private organization whose most influential members are private water companies and some of the world's biggest dam construction companies, funders and government agencies.

Based on five continents, International Rivers is an international environmental and human rights organization. For over two decades, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the communities that depend on them.

Media contacts: 

Peter Bosshard, Policy Director, +90531 725 94 38 (in Istanbul)

Antonia Juhasz, Media Consultant, +1 415 846 5447 (in California) media@internationalrivers.org

Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director, + 1 510 848 1155 (in California), aviva@internationalrivers.org

More information: 

"International Rivers Condemns Suppression of Freedom of Speech," press statement by Peter Bosshard at the Taksim Hill Hotel

For more, visit International Rivers' World Water Forum page