SHAFAQNA – Responding to the announcement of the construction of a dam in Turkey on the Tigris River, Hamid Al-Khaffaf, the representative of the Grand Ayatullah Sistani in Lebanon, published a piece as follows:
On Tuesday, 29/3/2011, His Eminence Ayatullah Sistani received Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and many issues were raised in this meeting, including the problem of the water shortage in Iraq, which His Eminence posed to his Turkish guest and demanded him to refrain Turkey from taking measures that would decrease Iraq’s water quota.
Erdogan said: “It is Syria that controls the amount of water in the Euphrates River, and we let sufficient quantities of water in this river”, and mentioned a percentage in this regard.
His Eminence said: “The problem is not limited to the Euphrates River, but also extends to the Tigris River! It passes through the Turkish-Syrian border, and apparently there are Syrian-Turkish agreements to establish projects on this river which will adversely affect Iraq’s quota of its water.”
Erdogan promised to follow up on the issue.
On Monday, 11/11/2013, the then Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmed Davutoğlu, visited his Eminence Sayyed al-Sistani. His Eminence remarked that there is a great common history between Iraq and Turkey. During the World War I, the scholars of Najaf issued fatwas declaring the obligation to fight the English troops together with the Ottomans. There were major battles in which Iraqi blood was mixed with Turkish blood.
Davutoğlu commented: “This is true, and Najaf is a holy city which we cherish…”
His Eminence interrupted him and said: “The common history is not just about Najaf, but it extends to the whole of Iraq, and I raised this issue as an introduction to another one, and that’s: Since ancient times Iraq has been called Mesopotamia for the abundance of water in the Tigris and the Euphrates. Today, Iraqis are afraid of drought and fear that their country will become a barren land and its two rivers will dry out. And it’s because of the dam projects that Turkey plans to implement, and this is not in the interest of the common history between the two countries.”
His Excellency elaborated on this issue and stressed its importance to the Iraqi people, although the Iraqi government does not adequately address it. He stressed the need for Turkey to supply the water required by Iraq, and to reach an agreement on this matter according to the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation, and if necessary, to address the problem over the common rivers between the two countries according to the laws of international relations.
“As far as I’m concerned, there are no dams on the Tigris River, but only on the Euphrates River,” Davutoğlu said.
His Eminence insisted on his information and that he had read about the subject for some time. A member of the Turkish delegation intervened and said: “There is already a project to be implemented on the Tigris River near the Syrian-Turkish border.”
Minister Davutoğlu promised to follow up on the issue along with the Iraqi government.
The issue of water took most of the time of the meeting with His Eminence.
It is worth mentioning that the dam, referred to by His Eminence Ayatullah Sistani, is the same Ilısu Dam, a huge artificial dam on the Tigris River, which has been under construction since 2006 near the village of Ilısu and along the border of Mardin and Şırnak Provinces in Turkey. It was recently completed and is expected to deprive Iraq of half of its water quota from the Tigris River.