Turkey continues to weaponize water against Syria and Iraq, leading to catastrophe

BETH NAHRIN — As drought continues to bite the regions of Beth Nahrin (Mesopotamia) and water systems drop to critical levels, the Turkish government’s strategy of weaponizing water access remains in full effect. 

In an interview with Hawar News Agency, hydrologist at the University of Duhok in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and Secretary of the International Association of Hydrogeologists — Iraq Chapter Ramadan Hamza warned that civilization in Beth Nahrin is in great danger amid Turkey’s continuous control of the water flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

“Turkey continues to reduce [Syria and Iraq’s] share of water by more than 60% of the total agreed amount,” said Hamza. The habitability of Beth Nahrin is dependent on the continuity of the flow of water from both rivers, he emphasized.

The waters of the two rivers have been flowing without any natural or artificial obstacles until Turkey began implementing its “Southeast Anatolia Project” which consists of 21 dams and 19 hydroelectric power stations, said Hamza. Turkey is seeking to exchange water for oil, energy, and security and political concessions, he added.

“Turkey believes that it has the right to dispose of the waters of the two rivers without obtaining approval of any party, based on Turkey’s sovereignty over its natural resources,” said Hamza.

Former Turkish officials have stated that Turkey has the right to trade in water as others trade in oil.

The worsening water crisis in Iraq has led the government to pursue the construction of its own system of dams. However, given the lack of rainfall, already significantly reduced flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the questionable usefulness of dams in combating reduced water availability. Dams are also a threat to cultural heritage.

As reported by The Art Newspaper, the Iraqi government plans to build a dam in Sharqat, Salah al-Din Governorate.

The construction of the Makhoul Dam threatens to flood the historic city of Ashur and more than 200 heritage sites in the heartland of Assyrian civilization. Up to 250,000 people could also be displaced, according to a researcher with the Iraqi NGO Liwan.

Temple of Ashur, Iraq.

The ancient city of Ashur was built on the banks of the Tigris River more than 5,000 years ago. Ashur was once the powerbase of the Assyrian Empire, encompassing Mesopotamia, Anatolia and some of what is now Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

The remains of the city survived the Islamic State (ISIS) but its main gate was significantly damaged. Its restoration was carried out in coordination with the Iraqi State Council for Antiquities and Heritage and the Ministry of Culture. However, the structure remains weak and without further attention could collapse.

Now, as a result of the ongoing drought — made worse by climate change and destructive Turkish policies — dam construction has returned to the political agenda.

Ashur and several hundred other uninvestigated archaeological sites sit in or along the planned reservoir of the Makhoul Dam.