For the first time since the start of the global Covid-19 crisis, core activists of Save the Tigris met in Iraq for a strategic meeting, with the intention to re-develop the strategy and objectives of the initiative. Over 10 activists from Iraq, Kurdistan Region, Europe and US spent two days from 17-18 March 2022 in the House of Environment of the Tobacco Factory in Sulaymaniyah. At the start of the meeting, achievements and bottlenecks of the past 2 years were discussed. Activities were to a large extent limited to online presence due to the pandemic, and many members were not able to meet face to face. Despite this, Save the Tigris continued to grow as it became a Dutch Foundation in October 2020. In the past year, we continued to follow-up on the UNESCO file of the Marshes, critical dam construction projects such as Makhoul in Iraq and Cizre in Turkey, climate change initiatives in Iraq and we further developed relations with Iranian and Syrian partners. This strategic meeting however provided finally and opportunity after more than 2 years to strategize together in person and plan for the coming years.
During the meeting, main partners Humat Dijlah and Waterkeepers Iraq presented an overview of their work of the past period. The organizational structure of Save the Tigris was reviewed, which includes the Steering Committee and the Supporters. The former functions as the advisory body of the foundation, supporting the board and the coordinator, volunteers, while the supporters participate in the Mesopotamian Water Forum and other activities of Save the Tigris. The Steering Committee agreed on the need to expand the membership of supporters.
Additionally, a thorough discussion took place on the general strategy and objectives of Save the Tigris. The following challenges were identified:
- Denial of right to water (Privatisation of water)/Undemocratic decision-making/Consultation/Participation
- The use of watercourses and water-related infrastructure as a weapon and a tool for political hegemony
- False solutions to the water crisis (Dams) / Human rights abuses associated with water
- Climate change
- Threats to Cultural and Natural Heritage
As such, it was decided to focus on the following corresponding objectives for the coming future:
- Protecting the right to water and practice democratic participatory decision-making over water management
- Shared water resources become a tool for lasting peace between the different communities of the region
- Water management policies and projects are socially and ecologically just and build resilient and equitable societies in Mesopotamia.
- The region has adapted to the reality of climate change and contributes to address the root causes of climate change.
- The cultural and natural heritage of the Tigris-Euphrates basin is preserved on the basis of a common Mesopotamian identity
- All Mesopotamian water resources are drinkable, fishable and swimmable
The meeting concluded with an action in the framework of Iraqi Water Week together with partners Humat Dijlah and Waterkeepers Iraq. A statement was published by 13 Iraqi and international civil society organizations, including Save the Tigris, calling for more action to address the causes and impacts of Iraq’s water woos. Iraqi and international activists of Save the Tigris travelled to the Sirwan River on the Iraq-Iran border in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, which has been increasingly diminished as a result of Iranian upstream dams and droughts, calling for immediate action to mitigate Iraq’s water crisis.