"We are as a Waterkeeper in general, globally, against dam- particularly this type of dam. The GAP (http://bianet.org/english/environment/215974-hasankeyf-initiative-these-are-the-days-of-apocalypse-for-hasankeyf-and-tigris-valley) project planned in the 1950s Ilisu dam is only one of those 22 Dams. Ilisu dam they started very quickly because it will destroy a Kurdish village, unfortunately the history of this area is very rich, this will create bitter misery among the community not only Kurdish but all communities. WE are advocating against this dam because we don’t want this to happen, the river is uniting communities."
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Nabil Musa Interview 14/7/2020
“There is a threat waiting for us because Turkey is stealing our water”
N: “In general as a water protector, there are 352 Waterkeepers around the world we are part of that movement and we started our program in Iraq in 2011”
“We were the first Waterkeeper in the Middle East. We were active to advocate and protect free flowing rivers in Kurdistan and Iraq one of our main objectives towards protecting our rivers to be free flowing rivers because our rivers have been the resource of connecting all of our communities and cultures, religions, languages and all of the communities used to come together around the river. Tigres River has been a river that has done this for the entire history of humanity. Tigres is not just important for the Kurdish people or the Arabic people living downstream- it is the cradle of civilizations.
The Tigres and Euphrates create the cradle of civilization.
In 1950s Turkey completed a 53 km survey along Tigres river to research the best place to control the flow of the river. They selected the location of Ilisu village after this survey to build a damn near Sharnack village near Jazeera Village.
The main objective of building this dam is to control the river flow, as you saw during the documentary. As you see, Turkey has plenty of underground water and do not need to create an additional dam.
We are as a Waterkeeper in general, globally, against dam- particularly this type of dam. The GAP (http://bianet.org/english/environment/215974-hasankeyf-initiative-these-are-the-days-of-apocalypse-for-hasankeyf-and-tigris-valley) project planned in the 1950s Ilisu dam is only one of those 22 Dams. Ilisu dam they started very quickly because it will destroy a Kurdish village, unfortunately the history of this area is very rich, this will create bitter misery among the community not only Kurdish but all communities. WE are advocating against this dam because we don’t want this to happen, the river is uniting communities.
In Hasankeyf, 1200 years ago people travelled with the Kurdish boat (Kalak) made from goat skin – similar to an inner tube, there are only a few people who can still make these boats. At that time people could travel to Basra in six days. The goods could be sold in Basra and people could travel back to Hasankeyf by horse.
In Hasankeyf more than 3,500 houses will be destroyed by the dam- all of the families speak Arabic because it was essential for their trade, Kurdish because of their ethinicity and Turkish because of their locations.
Think about it, how did that happen? Why does this group speak three languages? As though each is their mother tongue- It is the water uniting us, unfortunately, in 2014 we wanted to do a similar expedition (sic from Hasankeyf to Basra) we wanted to show the communities how the river used to connect us. It took us three months to get to Basra.
INT: Very good. You are a Waterkeeper globally and you are a member of that movement. How much have you worked to address the GAP project and the threat of the GAP project globally? It is a very big threat globally- the result will be a desertification in Iraq.
Nab: As I said since 2011 we are concerned about Eastern Turkey as well- the basin comes from Turkey we have done a lot of advocacy to keep out flowing rivers free. There is no year without having an activity about Hasankeyf- of course with a lot of struggle and threat, sometime I have been detained for a week in Hasankeyf.
INT: There were obstacles?
Nab: Of course, there were obstacles, you are working in the field- do you understand? To protect the country is not about carrying a gun and killing people! Right now, country protecting the country has changed- the model of protecting the country has changed. If you lose your water resources, never mind if you have a system, have a state, if you don’t have water for drinking, if you don’t have a tree for birds to nest in there is nothing you can do. Like some other rich countries, they live in the desert like Arab countries, they have a lot of oil. We Kurds understood this wrong- that system doesn’t work. One thing is protecting our culture- it is the natural environment, particularly our water resources. What’s happening right now form our neighbouring countries particularly in Turkey- but also Iran and Syria- is that they are trying to control our water and in 10 years’ time 80% of our water will be controlled by our neighbours. At the time when or water is controlled, for example the Ilisu dam, 1,200 megawatts of electricity will be provided to Turkey this is a benefit alongside that the Turkish government can use this as a political card and cut water off from Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq at their own will. For example,…. to put pressure on Kurdistan region if they want to control certain mountains or come into Kurdish territory using this card as a political pressure and as a tool of oppression against federal Iraq and regional Kurdistan. In fact, what is happening right now about our water resources, all of it is a crime – because we know water are our water rights and we are talking globally here.
Right, what is happening now from our neighbouring countries all of it is a crime.
This will create a disaster in the near future and we are not ready for that, as I said from 2011 there is no year we haven’t done an activity internally and internationally about Hasankeyf. We have collected all of the tribal leaders and Sheiks from downstream and took them to Hasankeyf there were a lot of obstacles and dangers for us just because we wanted to send a message across – this water when is crosses in front of your door this doesn’t mean it belongs only to you. The water belongs to all of humanity/.
INT: So, the destruction created by this project (sic the GAP project) is not only for Kurds it is for all cultures and religions?
Nab: It is for all humanity, for the whole history of humanity. Hasankeyf is 12,000 years old the 12 Imam of Shia’a they have carved their prayers into the wall, I have seen it myself. This is very important for Islamic history- believe me, right now what’s happening to Hasankeyf all Kurdish people should be in mourning. Sometimes we show a picture of Hasankeyf people say “Where is this?!” from both sides of the river banks full of caves, until six months ago people used to live in those caves, 12,00 years people have lived in there every year we are active in those areas. When I say we are active it’s not only me and two people- we are many. You saw it in the report, Turkey have been pressured globally, we know which counties sold the turbines to the Turkish government- just to provide the 1,200 megawatts electricity- that data we have collected. As I mentioned that data we have collected, it is not only some activist from Kurdistan taking action from here or Turkey, there are a lot of expert activists out there we are all against this type of dams.
Right now, Google it “what is the threat of this type of dam” you will be shocked there is more negative impacts particularly this type of damns they are erase the history of humanity. When you look at the benefit of it, there is much less than what are the impacts – this has been scientifically proved. There are many countries who have built this type of dam and are now demolishing them, because they need to bring life back to the river for fish to travel upstream and spawn. There are more than 70,000 dams around the world globally- these dams are like a blood clot in your circulation system they will cause a stroke. These rivers are your life this ecosystem that you see is created by free-flowing rivers, unfortunately many countries around the world, particularly in Turkey and Iraq they are changing the direction of water they make tunnels and channels. What is happening right now in Iran, in fact the impact is shocking in fact this new generation, when they look “life is perfect, oh yeah we have access to everything” when you turn around- what is happening in your back yard it is tragic, it is a crime, believe me, I don’t want to say I have been scared, depending on the data we collect the way we see it scientifically it have been proven how much this kind of dam is affecting the whole of humanity not just for Kurds.
Yes, there is a Kurdish village that is going to be drowned and they will make some modern flats “up there” for them and yes, they will have a life they can live, but our history will be erased an irreplaceable. Right now, what is happening with corona- we will have worse than corona. The way we are treating our planet – we should be thankful mother nature is allowing us to survive.
INT: What is the most important thing that Waterkeepers should do about all of the threats you are talking about that are worse than corona that we have to face and that will affect us a lot? What are the most important things for the Waterkeepers, governments and people in power to do against the Turkish government?
Nab: We are the civil society, we are the NGOS, ok… we are rich with data and we have many ways to access the cultures and the rivers that have been neglected for a long time, we can easily access these places to get data to scientifically prove what is going on. We can find the water protection laws, but to advocate, pressure to ensure that laws are practiced we need experts. We need experts to access and disrupt the systems that are ignoring the laws who will be taken seriously. In fact unfortunately in Kurdistan we have a system, as I told you, that is a puppet system when you examine it and try to address it, there is a glass ceiling. When you arrive there, you will bang your head on it and you will not pass. What we can do as a civil society about the environment, we have done it. As I told you about the funeral, this disaster, we are already mourning it had been a long time we have been wearing black clothes for it. But, expert people, those in power, the political people, those people who can preach in the Friday prayers or from religious power, they have to put pressure on neighbouring countries. In my opinion not only Kurdish people from the Iraqi region need to act, people from downstream, from Southern Iraq need to come on board. Here is the problem globally, we fix the mistake with a mistake: “Oh! Turkey, they made a dam! Let’s build a dam too!” - but what about the people further downstream, because of this when you look at it, the community that live upstream, they’re not thinking about the people downstream and the people downstream don’t think about the people in the basin- everyone is taking the water for themselves! The people paying the biggest price are the people in the basin, those living next to the ocean. For example, all the water in Kurdistan disappears and the 80% of the water in Iraq will also disappear. And we, as Kurds have a plan to build more than 200 dams. Kurdish government needs to take action, but what about people living downstream, this water is every human’s right when you’re born, you’re not born as an Iraqi- you are born as a human. You’re not born as a Turk; you’re born as a human. This political dictatorships in neighbouring countries, they don’t think about people downstream and what will this create? It will create the bitterness I spoke about earlier, when you don’t have water what are you going to do? You are going to become a refugee upstream where the water is. Upstream communities will tell you “Don’t come here” then what happens. War.
That’s why expert people are telling us, the next war will be over water.
The war will happen soon, and it will be about water, it is so clear!
Two years ago, in Basra in two days, 110,000 people were poisoned by contaminated water. The saltwater from the ocean contaminated the clear water from the river, it mixed with bacteria and sewage.
So, people got sick, when they realised the water was contaminated, what did they do? They protested; they came out to the streets. For four months they didn’t go back home, more than 800 people were murdered by the government and militia.
INT: This is good, but we don’t have much time left, please tell me in brief. More than 6,000 caves will be flooded in a heritage site that is more than 12,000 years old. What do you think is the message to Iraq and all of the Kurdish people around the world?
Nab: This is going to be a huge tragedy – this is genocide, this is Anfal against the Kurdish culture, of the history. These historical places (Hasankeyf) are proving humanity’s existence- how long we have been here! You see all of the modern communities- with their mobiles, where did they start? How are we connected? For example, how did those languages interact and interconnect. Everything is connected by the river. In fact, what’s happening right now- I will bring you more than 4 articles from The Guardian talking about this. When I say as an activist what we can do about this, we have done it. But don’t forget. We are civilians, we are a civil society, we don’t belong to any political parties, but what is happening now we have to be honest, put it on the top of the table to talk about it with you, discuss it, as I told you what is happening right now is tragic. But in the near future, it will be catastrophic not only towards Kurdish people – Kurds we are used to this. But this will erase all cultures downstream; we are leading to genocide, to Anfal, to chemicals downstream. I am not saying this is ok, but this is the message for all of the world. For Islamic history, for Arabs for the downstream community in Iraq- this is the biggest disaster. As I said: this is a crime Turkey they know what they are doing, very well. Those people who have the power to do this project, they know very well how much they break international law. Iran is the same. If we continue like this, as I told you in the near future- this is the biggest human tragedy.
INT: Nice one. Expert, Nabil Musa, Waterkeepers Iraq- Kurdistan thank you for being with us.