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03 Oct 2013

Nature Iraq Leaving the Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign

The Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign is a project of the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI). According to their website, ICSSI created the Save the Tigris Campaign (STC) in an attempt to protect World Heritage sites along the Tigris River from the Ilisu Dam, which is a hydroelectric project being constructed by the Turkish government. Nature Iraq joined STC as a gesture of goodwill towards organizations in the region working to protect Iraq’s cultural resources, and because of our mission in protecting the Mesopotamian Marshlands of southern Iraq.

Over the last few months, there have been a number of factually inaccurate public criticisms by STC of the Iraqi government’s handling of the World Heritage Site application process for the Iraqi marshes. More specifically, STC issued a press release on June 28, 2013, stating that the Commission for the Submission of the Central Marshes as a World Heritage Site of the Ministry of Environment of Iraq (the Commission) is not transparent about the submission process and that there had been “no efforts” to prioritize the marshes application.

Azzam Alwash, founder and President of the Board of Directors of Nature Iraq said of the recent declaration: “With this action, Iraq has acted to preserve the cradle of civilization.  It is now the duty of the world to help Iraq maintain these wetlands for the future generations by helping Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran to reach an equitable agreement on the sharing of the waters in the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates.”

In response to this press release, Nature Iraq issued a Clarification Letter to STC stating our concerns about the release’s tone and content. Nature Iraq knows firsthand the hard work of the Commission and the Ministry of Environment, and felt that the press release was a misrepresentation of the Commission’s work. Nature Iraq regrets that our name was attached to the statements made in the press release, and we are currently in the process of correcting our existing procedures for approval of public comments to prevent such mistakes in the future.

Members of Nature Iraq staff serve on the Commission and can confirm that the Commission’s work is exemplary in its diligence and dedication. The Ministry of Environment and Commission have taken a number of steps to be both transparent and participatory, including adding non-profit organizations to the Commission and partnering with international experts from UNEP, UNESCO, and IUCN. We appreciate the hard work of the Commission and drafting team, and hope to have the privilege of continuing to be part of this team into the future.

Therefore, although Nature Iraq agrees with STC’s mission of protecting Iraq’s natural and cultural resources along the Tigris and of ICSSI’s greater mission of bringing together Iraqi civil society, we no longer want to be part of the Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign. We feel the factual misrepresentations that have been made in STC’s public statements are significant and that the only way to protect our standing as a reputable organization is to distance ourselves from this project.

Nature Iraq harbors no ill will towards either ICSSI or STC, and wishes them the best of luck in their endeavors.

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