Why I Was Deported from Turkey

News & Politics

Back home in Berlin, I am overwhelmed by the show of support for our message that dams are a risky business. In India alone, one hundred activists and organizations signed a petition denouncing our deportation from the World Water Forum and thanking International Rivers for saying no to risky dams.

Payal and I traveled to the World Water Forum in Istanbul to inform the world about the risks of building large dams. We painted a large banner in red, yellow and blue with the words "No Risky Dams" and brought that into the official forum. With the banner, we wanted to show the world that while the World Water Forum seeks to advocate for the construction of more large dams, people around the world know that dams are a risky business.

Minutes before the start of the opening ceremony on Monday morning, when a speaker asked everybody to take their seats, and the stage was packed with reporters, we unfurled our banner. Filled with pride in our message and ready to get the attention of the entire 3,000-person audience, we held the banner over our heads and shouted "No Risky Dams!"

Not even a minute later, security took the banner and led us out of the venue. First, we thought that they would keep us for some hours, take away our conference accreditation and then let us go. However, after six hours, we were informed that we had to leave the country, or face time in a Turkish prison. We were accused of “influencing public opinion.”

While we of course wanted to influence public opinion, the World Water Forum and the World Water Council, with their harsh reaction to our peaceful protest (for their reaction to a demonstration outside of the venue, read Peter's blog), sought to stifle the debate about controversial dams. This is no surprise, as Turkey is planning to build the Ilisu Dam, one of the largest currently planned dams, on the last free-flowing river in the country, the Tigris. The dam would have a reservoir of more than 300 square kilometers; threaten the habitats of endangered fish species, migrating birds and the Tigris turtle. It would also drown almost one hundred villages and displace more than 50,000 people who have not had the right to make their voices heard in the decisions related to the dam.

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