The Tigris and the Euphrates are two giants that originate in Eastern Anatolia forming two major river basins that irrigate mare swaths of the Middle East. Mesopotamia is a unique region where historical remnants of Assyrians, Roman and Ottoman cultures exist side by side. Some of these archeological sites, including Hasankeyf on the Tigris, have recently been flooded as a result of the construction on enormous hydroelectric dams. The Euphrates River springs from the Armenian Highlands in present-day northeast Turkey and crosses Syria before reaching its confluence with the Tigris River in Iraq. Having wound its way through Diyarbakir, Mosul, and Baghdad, the Tigris, now with the combined force of two rivers, spills into the PersianGulf. Home to the sources of both rivers, Turkey controls their flow and wields a potent weapon against its neighbors.
Ankara has gone to great lengths to tame these waterways. With the Great Anatolia Project (GAP) - a vast regional development program launched in the early 1980s, and the largest of its kind to date - Turkey embarked on constructing twenty-two river dams. Turkish river management policy impacts the environment as well as the geopolitical balance in the Middle East. At the national level, dams promote ecosystem isolation, and become an instrument of territorial domination in areas where the Turkish army confronts Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) insurgents.