Islamic State Threatens Turkey Over Euphrates River Water

RAQQA, Syria

The Islamic State (IS) group, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, said this week that if Turkey does not allow more water to flow through its dams on the Euphrates River, militants will do it themselves by “liberating” Istanbul.

“I pray to God that the apostate [Turkish] government reconsiders its decisions. Because if they do not reconsider it now, we will reconsider it for them by liberating Istanbul,” IS spokesman Abu Mosa said in a videotaped message.

IS has seized territory in Syria and Iraq over the past few moths, including key hydropower dams and reservoirs.

Starting in June, the militant Islamist group began accusing Turkey of stopping water flows out of its dams, which in turn decreased the water levels in northern Syria’s Lake Assad -- a major water source for the country and now for IS, which established its “capital” nearby at Raqqa. 

Measurements of the river’s flow at the Syrian border showed that Turkey released more than the minimum 500 cubic meters per second in April, and that this amount did drop to 222 cubic meters per second in May.

However, this decrease is not considered enough to account for the total drop in Lake Assad’s levels, according to experts.

Last month, Waleed Zayat, a mechanical engineer working for the Syrian opposition’s interim government in Aleppo, where Lake Assad is located, blamed the decrease in water levels on a drastic increase in electricity generation at the Euphrates Dam at Al Tabqa.

He said the Syrian government had decided 10 years ago to stop using the dam for power generation, and to use it only as a strategic water reservoir. He said that normally, only one or two of the turbines at the dam are used, and only for a few hours a say. But since IS took over, all eight turbines have been running at full capacity, he said.

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