Countdown to Mesopotamian Water Forum Virtual Assembly: Local Assembly of Turkey

From 16-17 May 2020 the Virtual Assembly of the Mesopotamian Water Forum will take place online. 1 year after the first Mesopotamian Water Forum held in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, water movements and civil society organizations from Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – the four states of the Tigris-Euphrates basin – will take part in 2 days of discussion and debate, joined by other internationals. Since the Virtual Assembly will be held in English, participating activists from the Mesopotamian region will organize local virtual assemblies in local languages, to prepare for the main regional discussion. In this series, we will provide summaries of each local assembly, prior to the main Virtual Assembly taking place from 16-17 May.

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Mesopotamian Water Forum Local Assembly of Turkey, 3 May 2020

22 activists from different ecology groups/movements from across Turkey including Northern Kurdistan convened online in to discuss the subjects of the upcoming Virtual Assembly of the Mesopotamian Water Forum. 3 out of 4 participants were member of the Mesopotamia Ecology Movement (Northern Mesopotamia). Half of these attended the 1st Mesopotamian Water Forum in 2019.

The first discussion centered on an assessment of the 1st Mesopotamian Water Forum, which was attended by more than 30 people from Turkey. The main outcome was that the participation of approximately 200 people and the opportunity for exchanges was a great achievement, but technical problems – in particular issues with interpretation into Turkish – limited some of the discussions and exchanges with other participants. The local assembly of Turkey also found that:

  • Certain projects such as Ilisu Dam could have been emphasized more
  • Common campaigns which were mentioned in the final declaration should be materialized
  • The privatization of water is a thematic issue which receive more focus
  • Discussions regarding the final declaration were difficult, and the presence of women in the discussions was too little.

The second discussion focused on water/ecology struggles in times of Covid-19. Participants expressed that the Turkish government and private companies have profited from the ban on public demonstrations to move ahead with the construction of previously halted projects (the Ecology Union has published a list of such projects), and the ban is used to silence political opposition. The pandemic has been a psychological and economic challenge for the whole society in Turkey. People increasingly use social media, which therefore is increasingly relevant for our work. A substantial part of the population in Turkey finds that one of the main causes of the pandemic is ecological destruction. This provides a window of opportunity to discuss issues related to water (infrastructure) more broadly. Nonetheless, the current situation has also demonstrated the weakness of ecological movements. Hegemonic states and capitalist actors aim to use the chaos to their advantage as much as possible.

Finally, participants of the Turkish local assembly discussed a possible second edition of the Mesopotamian Water Forum in 2021, to be held in Diyarbakir. It was deemed necessary to discuss beforehand what the benefits of such a forum could be, before going into details regarding the organization. Common decisions taken during such as forum should implemented via a common mechanism. Participants felt it is important to put discussions in the perspective of capitalism, i.e. the hegemonic political-economic system. The banner “We need to develop peace through water” is crucial and participants of the Mesopotamian Water Forum need to act on this basis. The local assembly found that water plays an increasing role in conflicts and wars; wars are not only related to territory, people and identity. Participants of the local assembly argued that, for example, one reason the Turkish state controls parts of Iraqi Kurdistan is the water sources in these mountainous areas. Activists must build closer relationships with communities on the ground. The broad population does not read long reports, instead social media and visuals are crucial to convey our message. In addition, in Upper Mesopotamia water pollution is becoming a crucial issue for access to water, which should be further discussed. Water as a human right is a perspective that the forum should underline.

After the main Virtual Assembly, another local assembly for Turkey will take place, to discuss the planned 2nd Mesopotamian Water Forum.

The Virtual Assembly of the Mesopotamian Water Forum will take place from 16-17 May. Register here.

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