Following a strategy meeting in April 2017 with river activists from Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Save the Tigris Campaign announced a regional water forum will be organized in April 2018 in the city of Sulaymaniyah (Iraq) with participants from across Mesopotamia. Preparing for this occasion, Humat Dijlah and the Iraqi Social Forum organized a training on 6-7 August 2017 entitled, “How to use water as a means of building peace”. The training was given in cooperation with international and Iraqi activists in Baghdad, and with support from the Save the Tigris and the Iraqi Marshes Campaign.
25 young Iraqis with affinity in environmental and water issues in Iraq participated in the training, which focused on the main problems now faced by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and the Iraqi Marshes: river pollution and declining water levels, exacerbated by the negative impact of large dams. These dams are particularly destructive as they harm the natural environment and reduce the biodiversity that once characterized Mesopotamia, threatening the future of the rivers.
Commenting on the role of international and regional solidarity among the various environmental and water movements in the region, Dr. Dawood, one of the founders of the Save the Tigris Campaign, said, “We believe that equal sharing of transboundary water resources is a human right. The Ilisu dam, which is now in its final stage of construction in Turkey, threatens the archaeological area of Hassankeyf in Turkey and the Marshlands of Southern Iraq. Big dams threaten not only Iraq but the whole region. Hence, international solidarity, networking and cooperation among those movements concerned with the protection of natural resources in the countries of Mesopotamia is essential. International solidarity is the main strength of the Save the Tigris and the Iraqi Marshes campaign.”
British activist Nicholas Hildyard stressed the importance de-escalation of regional conflicts which arise when countries in the region attempt to gain a monopoly on water resources. He stressed how the problem of river pollution needs to be addressed in order to respond to’ a growing water crisis.
The Iranian activist Yousuf Farhadi, a member of the People’s Campaign to Support the Kind Zagros” in Iran, expressed his desire to cooperate with Iraqi counterparts. He would like to coordinate efforts to influence popular opinion on the need to share water resources equally and equitably among all the peoples of the region.
The Regional Water Forum is planned for April 2018 by Save the Tigris Campaign and its main partner in Iraq, the Humat Dijlah Association. The event aims to gather water and river activists from Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran in order to identify the most prominent water problems and challenges faced by the peoples of the region. Our aim is for the forum to build on the experience of all activists and to agree on some practical proposals to help resolve water conflicts and to avoid possible future environmental crises.