Date of Award

Winter 2-1-2020

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Aseel Sawalha, Ph.D.


Dam-induced displacement is a formidable practical and theoretical challenge for development projects and their proponents. The development projects contained within the Southeastern Anatolia Project in Turkey are debated widely in academic literature because of the factor of human displacement from large dam projects. A key dichotomy in the debate is about whether human displacement ought to be treated as an incidental harm to be mitigated, or as an illustration of a development project’s misguided purpose. In this thesis I examine how Turkish authorities approached human displacement in two dam projects: the Atatürk and Ilısu Dams. These case studies demonstrate how displacement is a core tenet of the Southeastern Anatolia Project. The processes of land expropriation, compensation, and resettlement indicate how the affected Kurdish minority are removed from their land in a way that is reminiscent of the Turkish state’s century-long history of attempts to scatter and assimilate Kurdish identity. In this context, displacement is an intentional act of destruction in the name of rebuilding for state interest.