"I wouldn’t accept, even if they gave all of Batman to me as compensation. I want to return to my village. I can never accept the destruction of history. If they are saying that they consulted us then they are lying. The [Turkish] State lies everywhere, they are lying to the EU and the EU listens to those with money and power, not to us."
~ Kurdish villager from Çaltepe, The Cultural and Environmental Impact of Large Dams in Southeast Turkey.
Erdogan, the intrepid errand boy of the pashas, broke ground today on the highly discredited Ilisu Dam project in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan.
The original consortium for Ilisu broke down in 2000 and 2001, due to many problems associated with the project. Turkey never commissioned an environmental impact study, nor did it assess potential climate changes as a result of going ahead with the project. Turkey's atrocious human rights record and its war against the Kurdish people was cited as problematic, as well as the example of resettlement problems preceding the construction of the Ataturk Dam. There were problems with regard to international law and the water rights of Syria and Iraq--a fact that caused the World Bank to refuse to get involved with any part of the GAP as far back as 1984. The CIA even felt that this scheme was a major security risk.
Finally, in 2001, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, confirmed all these problems in their own study of the situation. That study noted that GAP did nothing for the poorer, rural regions and it recommended that the affected populations needed to be brought into the planning process as well as be informed of all impacts of the project. The study also pointed out that there were other more effective and cost efficient means of modernizing the energy system. Moreover, the Swiss acknowledged that there was a lot of international financial support for the project, due to Turkey's dismal economic situation. Naturally, these international companies stood to gain from GAP.
Austria was involved with GAP from the beginning and seems to have stayed with it (along with the French company, Alstom Power), perhaps even acquiring German and Swiss shares in the project, especially with regard to a renewed effort to go ahead with the Ilisu Dam. The Austrian company, Andritz AG, has had very close working ties to Siemens and Swiss Sulzer-Hydro. That last, Sulzer-Hydro, belongs to Austrian VA Tech and, as of Spring, 2006, VA Tech Hydro became the property of Andritz AG.
While public pressure over the scandal of the Ilisu project caused Swiss, German and other countries to drop out due to public discussion over the findings of a Swiss Export Credit Agency (ECA) report, Austria's Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG kept a lid on the information to protect its "investment." Andritz AG is still attempting to silence any public discussion of the project, as is evident by the fact that the company refused to allow an Amnesty International representative to be present at its press conference on the dam earlier this week.
The face of the new Hitler:
Andritz AG's Wolfgang Leitner.
What could Andritz AG be trying to hide? Maybe similar information as that found by the Zurich study? Or the Swiss ECA study? Or that found in February 2005 by a fact-finding mission conducted by the National University of Ireland, Galway, and Kurdish Human Rights Project?
The NUI and KHRP present a thorough case for the historical and cultural arguments against the construction of the Ilisu Dam, but even more compelling is their case on the basis of human rights, because we are talking about the impact of this project on the lives of some 78,000 individuals, as well as their collective identity. There is no plan in place for adequate compensation. Indeed, given the fact that many of those 78,000 are not landholders, they will receive no compensation. In addition, their sources of survival, such as subsistence farming and fishing will be completely destroyed. They will be forced into the region's cities, all of which have unemployment rates well above 50%, the effects of which are already documented in the delegation's document as regards previous displacements.
Going ahead with the construction of the dam will increase human rights abuses and impunity of state security forces, something that is already well underway with the state's renewal of the dirty war. Widespread lack of food, clean water, sanitation, housing, health care, education, and lack of a welfare system and unemployment assistance will continue to increase. The situation of Kurdish women and children, accepted targets of the security forces, will become even more dire.
All of the problems uncovered by previous studies of the GAP in general and Ilisu in particular still hold, including the fact that none of the affected communities have been informed about the situation, nor have their concerns been addressed. On the contrary, the state is once again lying in its claims that the Ilisu Dam will bring economic invigoration to The Region and that the people want the project to continue. One of the most outrageous lies is the one cited in which Kurdish women are allegedly quoted as desiring to have dishwashers like everyone else. Washing dishes is the least of the worries of these Kurdish women, and this lie illustrates how completely out of touch the state is with the reality of the situation on the ground, day to day, as Kurds struggle for survival. The situation has grown worse in 2006.
There is also the question of mass graves of Kurds murdered by state security forces during the Dirty War. In recent years, several mass graves have been uncovered, containing the bodies of those Kurds who had been last seen as detained by security forces. Mass graves of HPG şehîds have also been uncovered, indicating that not only is the Turkish state responsible for mass murder of Kurdish civilians, but of gross violations of the laws of war, laws to which NATO members are, theoretically, supposed to adhere. The Ilisu Dam will flood areas in which more mass graves are located, thus hiding evidence of the Turkish state's atrocities.
It is very clear that Austria is now complicit in the hiding of these crimes, thus making them an accessory to the fact. Not only is Erdogan's turning of the spade another in a long history of Turkish state aggression against the Kurdish people under occupation, but with that spade, Austria has also involved itself in the same aggression.
Such an aggression deserves a proper response, whether in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan or in Europe--it makes no difference.
More resources on Ilisu Dam:
Ilisu Dam Campaign
RiverNet: Ilisu Dam Project
KHRP February 2006 Report
Amnesty International Austria
Behind Closed Doors
The Corner House: Dam Resources