A PART of the world’s history is about to disappear forever.
The ancient Turkish city of Hasankeyf, which lies in south-east Turkey’s Batman province, is 12,000 years old. The Romans, Byzantines, Turkic tribes and Ottomans have all settled there, leaving their mark on the city’s rich history.
Now, the famous vista of minarets, the citadel and ruins of a bridge take the breath away as souvenir sellers offer their wares to a handful of tourists admiring the remnants of ancient civilisations.
But within the next few years, this will all be gone.
Mesopotamia landscape in Turkey,HasankeyfSource:istock
The historic centre of Hasankeyf is set to vanish forever under the floodwaters from the controversial Ilisu Dam project.
Turkish officials argue that the dam’s hydro-electric power station will provide electricity and irrigation essential to the development of the Kurdish-dominated south-east.
They promise the historic edifices will be preserved and moved in a hugely ambitious plan but local residents are sceptical. They fear the inundation of Hasankeyf will wreak untold damage on the region that will not be avoided purely by shifting the monuments to new areas.
“There is no going back,” Arif Ayhan, a member of the Association for Trade and Tourism in Hasankeyf told AFP.
Bazaar trader Mehmet Emin Aydin added: “We will try to fight as long as we can, so that the beauty and history of this city will not be destroyed.”
Hasankeyf, batman city, TurkeySource:istock
Among the most notable archaeological sites in the area is the remains of the Old Tigris Bridge, a ruined four-arch structure built in the 12th century and whose central arch was once the largest in the world.
But with the construction of the dam and hydro-electric plant now almost complete, the flooding process will begin on December 31 to create the lake that will eventually submerge Hasankeyf, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The move to relocate some of the city’s historic monuments has already begun, with the authorities having already moved a 15th-century tomb to a new site two kilometres away in a painstaking five-hour journey, AFP reports.
The tomb belongs to Zeynel Bey, a key figure in the early Islamic Ak Koyunlu tribe and one of many fighting for supremacy in Anatolia before the rise of the Ottomans.
batman, turkey – September 6, 2013: People are living by coast of river tigris at historical city of hasankeyf batman turkeySource:istock
Authorities plan to have nine more monuments from Hasankeyf join the tomb to fill the new “archaeological park” by the end of the year — which they hope will become a major tourist attraction.
But the Hasankeyf’i Yaşatma Girişimi (the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive), a movement founded in 2006 to campaign against the Ilisu dam project, fears that the relocation of several of Hasankeyf’s significant monuments will impact their preservation.
Hasankeyf isn’t officially classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it is said to meet nine of the 10 criteria to merit UNESCO World Heritage status, according to The Telegraph, and it was also declared a “first degree archaeological site” by the country’s supreme board of monuments back in 1978.
“The foreseen flooding of Hasankeyf would destroy evidence for one of the oldest organised human settlements ever discovered,” Europa Nostra, a cultural heritage NGO told AFP.
Hasankeyf, Turkey – September 22, 2013: Hasankeyf is a small town which had a thousand years past in Batman in the southeast of Turkey. Many valuable historical and cultural works and a thousand historical caves in this town will be under the water of the Dam of Ilisu. Activists of nature, environment and history refuse the building of this dam. But the construction of the dam continues.Source:istock
It’s not just historical monuments which will be destroyed. The Guardian reports that close to 80,000 people will be displaced and because of additional debts taken up to purchase new homes, thousands face impoverishment
The state has vowed to rehouse those uprooted by the project, with 710 new homes built in the upper parts of the town. But this is scant consolation for some locals.
batman, turkey – September 6, 2013: People are visiting historical hasankeyf downtown street in batman turkeySource:istock
“I do not need anything from the state, just that they leave their hands off beautiful Hasankeyf,” said local resident Ayvaz Tunc told AFP.
“I only ask that Hasankeyf remains as it is in all its splendour. I want the tourists to come, I want to live here. I do not want the city to be swallowed up under the waters.”
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