Turkey to release water to ease Iraqi shortages

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A general view of the ancient town of Hasankeyf by the Tigris river, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey. (REUTERS/Sertac Kayar)
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People walk through a bridge over the Tigris river in the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo)
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The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey. (REUTERS/Sertac Kayar/File Photo)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Turkey to release water to ease Iraqi shortages

  • Turkey is holding back water on the Tigris River to fill a reservoir behind its Ilisu Dam
  • That has alarmed Iraq and caused shortages particularly in the southern province of Basra
IRBIL, Iraq: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to increase releases of water from a dam in southeastern Turkey to neighboring Iraq, which is struggling with a water crisis, the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament said on Wednesday.
Turkey is holding back water on the Tigris River to fill a reservoir behind its Ilisu Dam, a step that has alarmed Iraq and caused shortages particularly in the southern province of Basra.
Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi, who met Erdogan in Turkey on Tuesday, said the president had agreed to an Iraqi request for more supplies. This was “in order to guarantee water reaches all of Iraq’s provinces, especially Basra,” Al-Halbousi said in a statement.
Turkey temporarily stopped filling the reservoir in June but agreed with Iraq to resume doing so in July. Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water supplies flow from neighboring countries, especially in the Tigris and Euphrates, which run through Turkey.
Iraq’s water shortages have led it to take measures such as bans on rice planting, and driven farmers to leave their land. Basra province has seen months of street protests over the lack of clean drinking water.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due in Baghdad on Thursday.
The recent water shortages have also been blamed on dams built on tributaries in neighboring Iran. The volume of the Tigris in Iraq has dropped by 8 billion cubic meters since last year.
A prolonged reduction of the river would not only affect Iraq’s supply of water, but also reduce the amount of electricity it gets from hydroelectric dams and cut into farming, forcing the country to import more food.
The shortages could also affect Iraq’s southern marshes, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.
Within the framework of the Joint Economic Commission protocol, Turkey and Iraq agreed to establish a joint committee for the negotiation of transboundary river basin of Tigris and Euphrates in 1980. This joint committee convened 16 times from 1982 to 1992 but the meetings halted due to the Gulf War, reported Daily Sabah.
From 1984 onward to 2009, Turkey, Syria and Iraq had negotiated the management of transboundary waters.
In 1984, Turkey proposed a three-stage plan for optimal, equitable and reasonable utilization of the transboundary waters of the Euphrates-Tigris Basin.
Yet, the plan was rejected by Syria and Iraq, who took a different approach to the basin area between the three countries. While Turkey considered the Euphrates-Tigris Basin as a whole system, the two others wanted to categorize it as two separate basins during the negotiations after the establishment of Joint Technical Committee (JTC) in 1983.
After several bilateral and trilateral meetings and provisional agreements, Turkey inked a memorandum of understanding with Iraq and Syria in 2009. The agreement stipulated the monitoring of water resources, joint projects and protocols and fighting climate change while continuing the flow of water 500 cubic meters per second to both Syria and Iraq.


Turkey’s Erdogan croons on campaign trail

Updated 20 March 2019
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Turkey’s Erdogan croons on campaign trail

  • Erdogan has deployed theme songs played on speakers at rallies in past elections
  • Music has always been a powerful tool in Turkish politics

ISTANBUL: In a decade and a half in power, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has often turned to oratory skills that are the envy of his foes to rouse supporters with speeches, poems and stories.
Now the Turkish leader is picking up the microphone to sing, complete with hand gestures, to rally supporters of his ruling AKP party for March 31 local elections.
Music has always been a powerful tool in Turkish politics, but with Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), it has now become one more way to galvanize his support base before a potentially tricky vote.
With Turkey in recession and inflation in double digits, the AKP is turning up the nationalist rhetoric to try to win over voters hurt by high living costs.
“I get goose bumps when I listen to the songs everyday,” said Ilknur Can, at an Erdogan rally in Istanbul’s Kasimpasa district, where the president grew up.
“I really understand, through this music, what patriotism is,” she added.
Erdogan’s critics say he has eroded rights by cracking down on dissent at home.
But for supporters, his electoral style taps into their image of Erdogan as the strong leader Turkey needs who speaks for them.
In this month’s municipal elections, the AKP will likely remain the largest party even if some experts say it could win by a smaller percentage of the vote.

Music is everywhere in Turkey, blaring out in taxis, shops and restaurants. Political events also have regular, and often extremely loud music.
The Turkish leader has deployed theme songs played on speakers at rallies in past elections, which have kept him in power since 2003.
But in the upcoming polls, it is Erdogan himself who is singing at almost every rally.
“Nereden nereye geldi Turkiye” (“From where Turkey came to where we are now“) Erdogan crooned from the stage at a recent event.
The song repeats a line from his election campaign tune about how far Turkey has developed under his rule.
“He already has an organic connection with his grassroots, but these songs are a new strategy to widen support,” associate professor Dogan Gurpinar, of Istanbul Technical University, said.
Political events have also been the subject of songs.
After a failed 2016 coup against Erdogan, one song had the lyrics: “Democracy took a blow and the nation was puzzled... the commander-in-chief gave the order: Take to the squares.”
That was a reference to Erdogan’s call during the coup attempt for loyalists to take to the streets.
Another song entitled “Dombra” chants the president’s name, drawing cheers from party faithful.
“I am over the moon whenever I listen to Nereden Nereye,” said supporter Ayse Duru, as she sang along to Erdogan’s recent campaign song.

The composer of Erdogan’s latest campaign tune and performer of it when the president himself isn’t singing it is Turkish pop singer Altan Cetin.
“It was not hard for me to write (the AKP song) and put it into a project. Believe me, it can sometimes be even more difficult to do a pop song,” he told AFP in his studio in Istanbul.
Cetin said that it took almost a month to finish.
“Our president uses every instrument of politics very successfully and very professionally,” he said.
In Europe, it is rare for a candidate to sing at election rallies.
But in the United States, former president Barack Obama sometimes sang on the campaign trail, and in 1992, Bill Clinton famously played the saxophone before an audience — helping to cement his popularity with young voters.
Late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez also often broke into song at rallies and speeches, rousing supporters with the national anthem or folksongs.
Cetin said that music was “like a glue” for people that “brings them closer.”
“Music is about synchronization. It creates a sincerity, a unity and a power with everyone who feels it.”

Cetin said that he wrote what he had “lived through” in Turkey, saying he was happy to see the country’s leader singing his music.
“A president accompanying a song with a microphone in his hand in a rally is a source of pride for the song’s composer,” he said.
Gurpinar, of the Istanbul Technical University, said that music was the most direct way to reach people.
“Turkey is a country that looks for tools to reach out to the masses more easily compared to other Western states,” he said.
Compared to the AKP, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) often struggles to establish similar bonds with its old school, left-leaning, protest song repertoire, Gurpinar said.
However the CHP is now also trying to attract more voters with modern songs — one is a rap tune by two young amateur musicians.
“It can have power only when the music and candidate merge,” CHP’s Istanbul candidate Ekrem Imamoglu told AFP when asked about music’s role.
But he said that positive expressions like music should replace heated rhetoric.
“I wish we would see and feel such nice things in politics,” he said. “We are happy with our songs. Honestly, I didn’t listen to the others.”