Water justice at the 5th World Water Forum

Notes from the 5th World Water Forum March 16-22, 2009 Istanbul, Turkey

Maude spoke this morning at a press conference to denounce the silencing of water justice activists.

Yesterday, at an anti-dam protest organized by Turkish groups, many Turkish activists were injured and arrested. A German and an American representative of International Rivers were detained for unfurling a banner that read "no risky dams."

They were protesting the construction of the Ilisu dam project on the Tigris River which would destroy the 10,000 year-old city of Hasankeyf. So far 350,000 people have been displaced by dam projects in Turkey.

This morning the foreign activists were deported to their respective countries.

At the press conference, the room was packed with journalists from around the world.

Peter Bosshard of International Rivers called on the World Water Council to stand up for freedom of speech by demanding that the Turkish government allow for peaceful demonstrations. He elaborated on the devastation caused by dams which have led to mass opposition around the world and highlighted the fact that from the perspective of those who are pushing the development of dams that, "if freedom of speech is not supressed, large dams are not possible."

Maude told the media that the situation exposes the nature of the WWC and the lie that it is an open and democratic organization that welcomes diversity of opinion. She said, "The WWC is a partnership of an elite group of water corporations and World Bank officials bent on one future for the world's water: private control. Decisions about the world's water should return to the world's people and the General Assembly of the UN."

Also present at the press conference were the drummer of a famous rock band, Kerem kabadayi, and a Turkish MP Ufuk Uras. Uras denounced the police action saying he was ashamed of the message this sent about Turkish democracy.