(Türkçe) "Kazanma Gücümüz var, Hasankeyf'te biz geri çekildikçe tarihi alan yok ediliyor"
Documentary on Hasankeyf in German TV ARD
The first TV channel in Germany ARD has published a good documentary on Hasankeyf. Its in German and can be watched at:
DW report: Facing eviction, merchants decry Turkey dam project
A dam nearing completion in southeast Turkey will soon displace residents of an ancient settlement, but many of them will be ineligible for relocation and have been given nowhere to go, reports Diego Cupolo.
Deutsche Welle (DW), 10.04.2018, link: http://www.dw.com/en/facing-eviction-merchants-decry-turkey-dam-project/a-43318344
Merut Tekin comes from a long line of merchants in southeast Turkey. From as far back as anyone can remember, his family has run shops in Hasankeyf, an ancient Silk Road trading post on the banks of the Tigris River.
Neolithic caves line the surrounding cliffs, atop which a Roman citadel rises over early Ottoman minarets. From his shop, Tekin can observe a fair chunk of human history with a quick glance, but he is likely to be the last of his relatives to enjoy such a view.
A few kilometers downstream, construction on the Ilisu Dam is nearing completion and this part of the Tigris River valley will soon become a reservoir, inundating Hasankeyf in the process. The project has been decades in the making, and despite local and international protests — in which European banks withdrew funding – recent developments suggest water levels will start rising this summer, though a firm date has yet to be announced.
“Since I was born, I’ve been under stress because of the dam,” Tekin, 38, told DW. “There’s always been the rumor that the project would be finished this year, the project will be finished next year.”
“The analogy I use is: It’s like having a death sentence, and you are standing on a chair with a rope around your neck, but the chair is neither kicked, nor is the rope taken off,” he continued. “You just stand there waiting, and that’s horrible.”
Now it seems the wait is coming to end, as the final turbine will be installed in the 1,200-megawatt dam this spring. To prepare, Turkey’s General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI) issued eviction notices in February to Hasankeyf merchants, ordering them to close up shop and move to the new Hasankeyf being built across the river on higher ground.
The notice was met with protests. Merchants complained the new town was not yet complete and they would be unable to conduct business away from the historical sites where they have long made a livelihood out of selling souvenirs to passing tourists.
Yet while Tekin reflects on the heritage and businesses being lost, his mind is preoccupied with the coming reality that he, along with other locals, will not be allowed to move to the new Hasankeyf due to restrictions in Turkish relocation and compensation laws.
No room for bachelors
The state has built 710 housing units in the new Hasankeyf and is allocating them only to families registered as residents of Hasankeyf. Though Tekin was born and raised in Hasankeyf, he is single, so he is not eligible to purchase neither housing nor a commercial property in the new town. Merchants who rent shops in Hasankeyf but live in adjacent towns will also be denied property and state assistance.
Tekin makes light of his situation, blaming the Ilisu Dam for his bachelor status by pointing out that the looming project prompted Hasankeyf residents to move out over the decades, driving the town’s population down from 10,000 to about 2,000 year-round residents.
“When we want to marry, we can’t because the population is decreasing … and then they say, ‘You’re not married so we won’t give you another house,'” Tekin said.
The first proposals for the Ilisu Dam were introduced in the 1950s. Since then, the prospect of a reservoir flooding the area has diverted investments away from Hasankeyf, said John Crofoot, an American who has lived on and off in Hasankeyf for six years and the co-founder of Hasankeyf Matters, which tries to raise awareness of the hamlet.
“The people of Hasankeyf, they’ve done a huge service to the world, in my opinion, by keeping this as a living site of cultural heritage, and they’ve done it at great expense,” Crofoot said. “They’ve lost out on a lot of economic opportunity by staying in Hasankeyf.”
Ongoing demolition and construction
Over the years, Crofoot has documented developments in Hasankeyf. He said the last few months have been the most difficult for local residents. Work crews have been blasting limestone cliffs dotted with 10,000-year-old caves to fill in valleys that once operated as tourist attractions in order to rid the area of loose, potentially hazardous rocks that could collapse when water levels rise.
The state claims dynamite is not being used in the process, but residents told DW they often heard explosions coming from work areas. Large earthwork projects are also underway in Hasankeyf, one of which is meant to reinforce a cliff topped with a Roman citadel, as it will remain above the reservoir’s projected water line.
Hasankeyf residents interviewed by DW said demolition plans were never publicly shared and independent environmental impact studies had not been conducted. Such claims were refuted by Alexander Schwab, senior vice president of Andritz Hydro, the Vienna-based company overseeing the construction of Ilisu Dam.
Schwab said every house in the area was tracked via aerial surveillance and later visited by consultants who informed inhabitants about construction plans.
“We have put a lot of effort in discussion and in contribution from our side in order to have all the positive and negative effects under control,” Schwab told DW. “If we hadn’t believed that the project is a good project, we wouldn’t have done it.”
Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO of Riverwatch in Vienna, disagrees.
“If you destroy all this, you are in no way better than the Taliban in Bamiyan, where they destroyed the Buddha statues a few years ago,” Eichelmann said. “It’s a similar act of idiocy. It’s crazy.”
(Türkçe) Basın Açıklaması: Hasankeyf boşaltılmak isteniyor!
Tigris River destroys temporary dam in Hasankeyf
Floods in the Tigris River have broken the small length dam in Hasankeyf which has been built by the Ilisu consortia for the relocation of monuments and other “destruction” works in Hasankeyf. what a nice day!!!
See News in Turkish: https://www.cnnturk.com/turkiye/dicle-nehri-hasankeyfte-setleri-yikti-is-makinelerini-yuttu
The Guardian: Turkey's 12,000-year-old Hasankeyf settlement faces obliteration
Work on clearing site for the controversial Ilisu dam on Tigris river threatens collapse of ancient monument famed for thousands of manmade caves.
The destruction of Turkey’s 12,000-year-old Hasankeyf settlement and ancient citadel has moved a step closer as authorities have begun to collapse cliff faces around the ruins of the citadel.
The move, linked to the construction of a highly controversial dam about 50 miles downstream, is also expected to damage the rich ecosystem of the Tigris river basin.
Local authorities have announced that the rocks were broken off “for safety reasons” and that 210 caves – a fraction of thousands of manmade caves in the area – would be filled before the town’s inundation in order to prevent erosion.
The Ilisu dam, part of the Southeast Anatolian project (Gap) and one of Turkey’s largest hydroelectric projects to date, has been mired in controversy ever since it was first drafted in 1954. The dam will raise the level of the Tigris at Hasankeyf by 60m, submerging 80% of the ancient city and numerous surrounding villages, including more than 300 historical sites that have still not been explored.
Environmental engineer Ercan Ayboga of the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive warns that close to 80,000 people will be displaced. Many of them will lose their land and their livelihoods. Because of additional debts taken up to purchase new homes, thousands face impoverishment.
Germany, Austria and Switzerland withdrew financial support for the Ilisu dam in July 2009, citing concerns about the social, cultural and environmental impact. The Turkish government, arguing that the dam will help produce much needed energy and irrigation, has secured domestic financing of the €1.1bn (£1.02bn) project and is pushing ahead despite a pending court decision at the European court of human rights.
The Ilisu dam has a life expectancy of less than 100 years, but the destruction of the fragile natural environment will be irreversible.
“The Tigris river basin is one of the last areas where a river runs freely in Turkey without having been dammed,” Ayboga says. “The dam will completely destroy the river banks. The microclimate will change due to the dam, a phenomenon we have already seen after the dams on the Euphrates. The biodiversity will suffer; the rich variety of plant and animal life will be severely diminished.”
Numerous vulnerable and endangered species are threatened by the construction of the dam, including the Euphrates softshell turtle, the red‐wattled lapwing, and many other rare birds, bats and mammals. While the environmental impact on Turkey will be severe, the effect on neighbouring Iraq is expected to be catastrophic.
Toon Bijnens, international coordinator for the Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign in Sulaymaniyah, said downstream water levels are expected to decrease by 40%: “This means that the water quality of the Tigris will worsen. There will be increased salt water intrusion, making the water unfit for drinking or irrigation.”
Ilisu, once operational, will also be detrimental to the Mesopotamian marshes, a wetland area in southern Iraq declared a Unesco world heritage site in 2016. “The dam will dry up a considerate part of the marshes,” Bijnens said. The marshes were drained by Saddam Hussein in the 1990s and the community of the Marsh Arabs has only recently returned to their land. Their livelihoods are now again endangered by the Turkish dam.
An official source from the Turkish ministry for Forests and Water Works told the Guardian that “all dammed up water is sent downstream via the turbines”. Because Ilisu was a hydroelectric dam, there would be no decrease of water levels. “The importance of reservoirs as a safe water source in the fight against global warming and drought has increased,” the source said. “For that reason the Ilisu dam has to be seen as an advantage for Iraq, not a threat.”
However, Ankara has not yet ratified the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention, a treaty that seeks to establish a law for governing freshwater resources shared across international borders that entered into force in 2014. Since no formal agreement was signed, the sovereignty over how much water is released downstream rests with Turkey, Bijnens warned.
Ayboga stressed that despite the controversies surrounding the construction of the Ilisu dam, all protests and public meetings were banned under the current state of emergency, declared just over a year ago.
“There has always been a serious lack of transparency and accountability,” he said. “But now the Turkish government uses the conflict in the region and the state of emergency to speed up the project and to silence all opposition. Many locals are scared to protest now.”
Ayboga added that it was very difficult for journalists, both local and international, to access the area. “This makes it easier for the government to push ahead with extremely controversial measures,” he said.
(Türkçe) Hasankeyf'teki kaya yıkımlarıyla ilgili haberler
(Türkçe) Cumhuriyet gazetesi: Hasankeyf’te son yaz
Europa Nostra statement on endangered heritage site of Hasankeyf
The Hague, 29 June 2017 – The Board of Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organisation in Europe, made a statement about the Ancient city of Hasankeyf and its surroundings in Turkey, listed among the 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2016, following a nomination by the Cultural Awareness Foundation. In their statement, the Board of Europa Nostra deeply deplores the decision of the Turkish government to build a dam that would lead to the flooding of a site of world significance, without proper and transparent justification and without adequate compensation measures. In particular, the Board regrets that the removal of the Zeynel Bay Tomb has been carried out with insufficient consultation with the local and scholarly communities and that other Islamic monuments of great significance remain highly endangered. The Board of Europa Nostra urges the Turkish authorities to adhere to the standards of heritage protection that are included in the European Conventions and to set up a proper consultation process with local communities and civil society organisations concerned in an open and transparent manner.
Statement by the Board of Europa Nostra
The Board of Europa Nostra, meeting on 14 May 2017 in the framework of the Europa Nostra’s European Heritage Congress in Turku, Finland, was advised that the longstanding intention of the Turkish Government to move the Zeynel Bay Tomb, a monument featuring Timurid tradition, has now been completed, as part of the ongoing government project to build a dam that will lead to the flooding of the archaeologically and architecturally important site of Hasankeyf on the river Tigris.
It is to be regretted that this removal has been carried out without sufficient documentation having been provided and certainly with insufficient consultation either with the local or with the scholarly community, both of which believe that the value of the site of Hasankeyf is far greater than the benefits to be obtained by its flooding. It is to be even more regretted that other Islamic monuments of great significance including the medieval bridge of the 12th century of the Artukid dynasty, the 15th century mosque complex and tomb of the Ayyubid Sultan Süleyman and the Imam Abdullah tomb, remain at risk. For all these reasons, Hasankeyf was included on its 2016 List of 7 Most Endangered sites in Europe, as part of the programme run by Europa Nostra in partnership with the EIB Institute and the Council of Europe Development Bank.
The Europa Nostra Board also deplores the fact that the law recently passed by the Turkish Grand National Assembly overrules the decision taken by the Turkish courts in 2013 that the relevant Environmental Impact Assessment Report was inadequate.
In the light of the above worrying developments, Europa Nostra Board states the following:
1) The foreseen flooding of Hasankeyf would destroy evidence for one of the oldest organised human settlements ever discovered. Such a site is not just of national and European but of world significance. Therefore, we believe that it is incumbent not only on Turkey but on the entire international community to ensure its safeguard.
2) Hasankeyf possesses one of the richest treasures of Islamic monuments in any country member of the Council of Europe. Acknowledging and affirming the value of this heritage for Europe’s shared cultural heritage, we deeply deplore the decision of the government of Turkey, a Member State of the Council of Europe, to build a dam which would lead to the flooding of such a site and, as a consequence, to the loss of one of the most valuable witnesses of Islamic heritage in a European country, without proper and transparent justification and without adequate compensation measures.
3) We urge the Turkish authorities to adhere to the principles and standards of heritage protection which are included in the European Conventions adopted under the auspices of the Council of Europe and of which Turkey is a signatory (namely the Granada Convention and the Valletta Convention). We also make a strong appeal to the Turkish authorities to set up a proper consultation process with local communities and civil society organisations concerned in an open and transparent manner. It is by now very late but applying best international practice to this case of outstanding but endangered heritage could still be beneficial.
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The relocation of Zeynel Bey Tomb in Radio
The relocation of the historical Zeynel Bey Tomb in Hasankeyf implemented on May 12, 2017, has been discussed in the Istanbul based “Acik Radio”. Program is in Turkish. Link: http://www.suhakki.org/2017/05/su-hakkinda-650-senelik-zeynel-bey-turbesinin-ilisu-baraji-icin-yerinden-edilmesini-konustuk/#.WRynk0ekKV5
New York Times: Turkish Dam Project Threatens Thousands of Years of History
New York Times, Set. 2016; ISTANBUL — For five generations, Firat Argun’s family has lived in Hasankeyf, an ancient town on the Tigris River in southeast Turkey where he runs a small bed-and-breakfast with a well-appointed garden.
“I have everything in my garden,” he said recently. “I have already found my heaven.”
But his little heaven will soon be lost.
(Türkçe) Unesco Genel Kurulunda Diyarbakir'i tartismadi
Dams and democracy: has the last word been said on Hasankeyf?
That modernization will provide a remedy to all ills is a founding Turkish Republican idea that has proven to be also the most resilient one.
HANDE PAKER 25 February 2016
In January 2016, a law regarding the evacuation of the residents and the relocation of the town of Hasankeyf in a new resettlement area designated by the state was passed in the Turkish Parliament.
The law is the first to create a settlement in Turkey through legal channels. This marks the latest phase in the long-standing controversy over the fate of Hasankeyf.
Hasankeyf is an ancient settlement in the southeast of Turkey considered to be an ‘open air museum’ filled with Neolithic caves, Roman ruins, medieval monuments, and landmarks such as the Zeynel Bey Tomb, Sultan Süleyman Mosque, and the Hasankeyf bridge and castle.
The European natural and cultural heritage network Europa Nostra has recently shortlisted Hasankeyf for the ‘7 Most Endangered’ Program 2016. The ongoing construction of the Ilısu dam threatens this heritage site, which will be flooded once the dam is completed, scheduled for later this year.
The Ilısu dam also threatens the wider Tigris area as it will lead to its ecological demise including the loss of endemic species and key biodiversity areas of global relevance.
Dams have long been a powerful symbol of state power that both fed into and took advantage of the hegemonic discourse in Turkey that reveres economic growth and modernization.
Dams were presented as projects that can provide growth, employment and ultimately, modernization. That modernization (equated with progress and civilization) will provide a remedy to all ills is a founding Republican idea that has proven to be also the most resilient one.
Its hegemonic power can be attested to by the fact that it has also been used by the AKP government, a political party that has built its agenda on critique and undoing of the so-called ‘old Turkey’.
The AKP has leaned on this not-so-new discourse to portray the image of the state that provides for and delivers services to the people. The modernization discourse is hegemonic because the state has effectively constructed development as a common goal for all of society, generating broad consent for undertakings in the name of modernization.
This discourse is also upheld by the AKP, albeit in new and more vicious ways. The hegemony of the modernization mission in Turkey has meant that all related policies have been undertaken without taking into consideration the social and ecological costs of energy investments, infrastructural megaprojects and urban renewal projects. Dams are a telling case.
The association of dams with progress found its ultimate propagator in Süleyman Demirel, the one time prime minister (intermittently between 1965-1993) and president of Turkey (1993-2000). It was not in vain that Süleyman Demirel was dubbed the ‘king of dams’, having completed dozens of dam projects and endorsing even more during his term.
He also initiated the Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP), which is one of the biggest water related development projects in the world. It is a mega project consisting of dams of various sizes, hydroelectric power plants and irrigation schemes, which he described as ‘the cement of Turkey’s unity and the greatest project of the Republic’.
The Ilısu dam was planned as part of this mega project and is to be among the five biggest dams in Turkey. In the case of the GAP as well, dams meant development and development meant a panacea for all problems social, economic and political.
From the state perspective, the GAP would appease the political demands of the Kurds while increasing state presence in the area.
Hence, Ilısu also represents how the state constructs the Kurdish issue as a problem of underdevelopment and lack of economic growth and not as a matter of human rights, democratization, and participation in the political sphere.
Dams and other mega projects are still used to generate consent and reinforce the image of the government as a provider of services to the people.
However, in the case of Ilısu and the Kurds, it is clear that dams are no longer a mechanism of reproducing consent. Immediately after the law was passed, The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive issued a press release on February 8, which underlined that the government is using the conflict situation to bypass the democratic process and bring the long-contested dam project to a conclusion. The statement also indicates that the locals of Hasankeyf consider this a forceful imposition of their displacement and have refused to declare to the state the type of residence they would like to have in ‘new’ Hasankeyf in protest.
Keeping Hasankeyf Alive
The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive is a key actor in the mobilization to save Hasankeyf. It was founded ten years ago and quickly became an influential network of 73 member organizations including local human rights and environmental organizations, affected municipalities, unions, and professional organizations from the region.
But the mobilization against the construction of the dam dates even further back, to the end of 1990s/ beginning of 2000s. A highly visible campaign involving civil society actors at the local, national and transnational levels was carried on for years to stop the construction of the dam.
The emphasis of the mobilization prioritized different aspects over the years depending on which civil society actors were active in the campaign. Local networks emphasized human rights issues while the national environmental organization, Doğa Association, highlighted the ecological damage in store, enlisting the support of well-known writers such as Orhan Pamuk and Yaşar Kemal, and popular culture figures such as Tarkan and Sezen Aksu. Transnational civil society organizations and networks were also involved, collaboration with which led to a major victory when export credit agencies backed by the governments of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria withdrew funding from the project.
The victory, however, proved to be short-lived because the state in Turkey turned to national sources of funding and got the credit from two banks. This led Doğa Association to seek transnational links and together with the local movements contesting the Belo Monte dam in Brazil, they formed the Damocracy network to raise awareness of the destructive effects of dams on ecological systems and local peoples.
These various civil society actors (organized locally, nationally, and transnationally) created solidarities to contend together with their sometimes merging, sometimes diverging frames of human rights, ecological preservation and cultural heritage.
Ilısu a symbol
In the case of Hasankeyf, the Ilısu dam has become a symbol of the coercive power of the state rather than a mechanism for ruling with consent.
And not just for Kurds. For some time now, ecological struggles have expressed demands for democratization, criticizing the way the state (or the AKP as embodying it) ignores the demands of its citizens to participate in decision-making processes – whether a dam, thermic power plant, hydroelectric power plant, nuclear power plant, mine, new housing, bridge or airport should be built in their river, valley, village, forests, city, and region.
Despite the controversy and contention around all of these projects, the AKP government has not given up on presenting infrastructural projects as prestigious steps in further development.
Yet, capitalizing on the modernization discourse can secure the consent of only part of society, because such consent is reproduced in the highly polarized context daily exacerbated by prominent representatives of the AKP.
Not a day passes by when a public figure, organization or social group demanding democratic participation is not denounced as a ‘traitor’. As the capacity of the government to generate consent through the hegemonic discourse of modernization declines, the tendency to resort to coercive power increases.
Whether such polarization can be governed for long as the people of Turkey continue to lose their homes, livelihoods, way of life, ecological diversity, and archeological heritage, remains to be seen.
Hande Paker is a political sociologist and 2015/2016 Mercator-IPC Fellow at Sabancı University. She has carried out research and published on modes of civil society-state relations, politics of the environment at the local-global nexus, and grounded cosmopolitan citizenship, with a particular focus on environmental struggles and women’s rights.
From the HDP to the government regarding ‘New Hasankeyf’
The HDP, questioning the government about ‘New Hasankeyf,’ said, “If one evaluates Hasankeyf as a historical treasure it is still impossible to understand the choice to eliminate with a destructive dam project nature and heritage.
12 January 2016, ANF
The AKP Government, proposed a new legislative bill signed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davetoğlu. The purpose of this legislation is the removal of cultural/historical structures located in the district of Hasankeyf, Batman, to ‘New Hasankeyf.’
HDP Batman Parliamentarian Ayşe Acar Başaran, filed a written motion seeking the response of Culture and Tourism Minister, Mahir Ünal, regarding Hasankeyf. In the motion, Başaran used the following wording, “The Ilısu Dam and Hydroelectric Plant, which upon completion is expected to be the 4th largest dam, has since the first day it was mooted provoked intense reactions due to the severe social, archeological, political and economic ruin and problems it will create. It is still impossible to understand and explain the choice to eliminate with a destructive dam project nature and heritage instead of preserving Hasankeyf as a heritage site, as Hasankeyf meets 9 of 10 UNESCO criteria for cultural historical heritage,” she said.
‘In terms of culture the effects to be produced have not been taken into account’
Başaran criticized the failure to take into account the effects to be produced in terms of cultural heritage in the evaluation of [the] Ilısu [Dam], which in any case will not have any economic effect, as it will only produce approximately one percent of energy [sic].1
‘Which cultural/historical structures will be moved?’
HDP Parliamentarian Başaran sought the response of Minister Ünal to these questions:
– Has your Ministry applied for Hasankeyf to be added to the UNESCO conservation list?
– Why was the application prepared by Doğa Derneği (Nature Association) for the Culture and Tourism Ministry in order to include Hasankeyf, which meets 9 of 10 UNESCO criteria, on the UNESCO preservation list not delivered to UNESCO?
– Why was it not deemed appropriate for an application to be made by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to UNESCO for Hasankeyf and the Tigris Valley?
– Which cultural/historical structures of Hasankeyf-Batman will be moved to New Hasankeyf? When will the transfer take place and how will it be conducted? Will the pylons of bridge be moved?
– Entry to the citadel was prohibited due to the cracks beneath the Small Palace and the Treasury. Well, then, have efforts been undertaken to reinforce these places, which are subject to the closure order? If not, then why?
– One of the people preparing the expert reports serves in the Ankara Preservation Directorate as a representative of the ministry. The same person also works in the ministry as a representative. Why were the experts not selected from among more neutral people?
– Why have the expert reports been delayed? Why has the expert report, which has been awaited for 11 years, still not been prepared?
– The cliff of the castle will not be submerged beneath water. However, according to several archaeologists and architects, if it collapses, the rock mass on which it sits and thousands of caves behind it will be damaged. Is your ministry working on this?
– There is a plan to rescue the Seljuk-era Zeynel Bey Tomb by moving it to another location. Is it possible to consider a monument rescued if the entire geographical and cultural context of which it forms a part is destroyed?
– Why has a cultural inventory of the Hasankeyf archaeological sites, which are under the Monuments and Museums General Directorate of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, still not been conducted?
– Have the archaeological remains of the oldest civilizations, which will shed light on the history of humanity, been presented in their entirety?
– To what extent have findings presented so far been disclosed to the public? Are some findings, which, similar to those at at Göbeklitepe, might open the way to rewriting history, and that are being concealed?”
1Translator’s note: The Ilsu Hydroelectric Plant is expected to produce 1 percent of Turkey’s electricity.