Gama ‘had role in Kurdish displacement’

CONSTRUCTION firm Gama is facing further criticism for its role in a controversial dam project which has displaced more than 200,000 Kurds in South East Turkey.

NUI Galway expert Maggie Renait also questioned why Gama's record had not been properly assessed before the firm was allowed to enter the Irish market place where it has been hit with accusations of wage fraud and underpayment.

Ms Renait, in association with the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) in London, has just published the latest in a series of comprehensive reports on the impact of a huge series of ongoing dam building projects in South East Turkey.

The report details how the dams collectively known as the GAP project have decimated local Kurdish populations and their culture.

Gama has been involved in numerous aspects of the development and acted as the local partners in the construction of a GAP dam, called the Birecik dam, which alone saw 30,000 people displaced.

According to a previous KHRP report, 18 villages close to the construction site were forcibly evicted by soldiers in 1996 and 1997. The report also details a lengthy catalogue of human rights infringements and cultural destruction associated with the dam.

In her latest 166-page report, Ms Renait recommends that the EU includes an investigation of such abuses in its assessment of Turkey's progress towards EU accession.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Ms Renait said Gama had profited from the untold misery of the Kurds affected.

"Gama has been shown to be involved in the GAP project which has resulted in the decimation of Kurdish cultural lands and the displacement of 200,000 people.

"The project has also been beset by severe human rights violations, labour abuses and is considered by locals as war by other means," she said.

Although Gama was one of numerous multinational firms employed on the GAP projects by the Turkish Government, Ms Renait said Gama's role should have been investigated before the Government allowed the firm access to the Irish market.

"Gama, as a company involved with the GAP project, has benefited from the displacement and enforced poverty of Kurdish people, the destruction of community and diverse cultural heritage. Why was this company permitted to come and do business in Ireland?" she said.

Gama officials were unavailable for comment last night.

Meanwhile, over 300 Gama workers in Ireland have now entered their second month of protest over allegations of massive underpayment.

However, both Gama and SIPTU have accepted an invitation to talks at the Labour Relations Commission in a bid to resolve the issue.

Over the weekend, LRC chief executive Ciaran Mulvey confirmed that he and the director of conciliation services at the commission, Kevin Foley, will hold exploratory talks with both sides today.

Last week the company began re-supplying food to occupied construction sites and assured the Government that no one would be evicted.

However, it remains unclear whether or not a company request that protesting workers leave Gama accommodation by this Friday, will be withdrawn.

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