London: Demonstration at Unesco to Save Hasankeyf!

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Here is the report of the action in London on the Hasankeyf Global Action Day from the activists:

“Today (Monday) we gathered in London to demonstrate at the UK Commission for UNESCO’s office. We demonstrated in solidarity with our Kurdish friends as part of World Hasankeyf Day, which was yesterday. We chose to move our action to the Monday so that UNESCO’s office would be open.” For full report see link:



Sunday, 20 September 2015

A demonstration is planned for 12 noon on Monday 21st September calling for UNESCO to list the town of Hasankeyf, in north Kurdistan, and the Iraqi Marshes as World Heritage Sites. The Ilisu dam, which Turkey is building in North Kurdistan (the part of Kurdistan within Turkey’s borders), threatens to destroy these two unique places.

The demonstration coincides with World Hasankeyf Action Day and will take place outside of the UNESCO office at 3 Whitehall, London. During the demonstration, we will deliver letters to key UNESCO staff to bring the urgent plight of Hasankeyf and the Iraqi marshes to their attention (see attached).

The Ilisu dam is 90% complete and will displace 78,000 people, mostly Kurds, from the area. In total 199 villages and towns will be destroyed by the Ilisu Dam, including Hasankeyf. The Ilisu Dam is part of a series of 22 dams (the Southeastern Anatolia Project) that the Turkish state is building in North Kurdistan.

The stunning 12,000 year old town of Hasankeyf, home to thousands of human-made caves, hundreds of medieval monuments and a rich-ecosystem, may be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world. Hasankeyf is set to vanish forever under a 121 square mile artificial lake if the Ilisu Dam is completed. That is why Kurdish andTurkish campaigners, as well as activists worldwide, are calling on UNESCO to certify the area a World Heritage Site.

The dam will also destroy the unique ecosystem of the Iraqi Marshes. The water flow to Iraq will be cut by the dam, causing the marshes to dry out. The completed GAP Project will reduce water flow to Syria by 40% and Iraq by 80%.

There has been a long-running campaign against the Ilisu Dam and its construction has previously been halted on several occasions.

Officially the Ilisu Dam will provide hydroelectric power, but Kurdish organisations claim that the dam is being built to force Kurdish people out of the rural areas and force them into the cities.

The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive (ITKHA) says: “To date, more than half of the GAP has been implemented, but nothing has been improved for the regional people, rather they have had to bear the social and ecological costs while the industrial centres in West Turkey and big companies have the profit.”

The region where the Ilisu Dam is being built has a history of repression by the Turkish military. In the 1990’s, whole villages were either burnt down by Turkish security forces or forcibly dispelled. Thousands of people were killed or disappeared. By the mid-1990’s more than 3,000 villages had been wiped from the map.

To coincide with World Hasankeyf Day, we will also travel to ICOMOS UK’s office at 90 Cowcross Street, London, EC1 and deliver a letter to its staff. ICOMOS advises the World Heritage Committee of sites that should be designated as World Heritage Sites. We have also sent an “alert” to ICOMOS through their website, informing them of the urgent need to save Hasankeyf and the Iraqi Marshes. We have also posted letters to Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, in Paris, and to IUCN, another advisor to the World Heritage Committee, in Switzerland.

Right now, there is a resistance camp at Hasankeyf, and activists are gathering there to march against the dam. Activists worldwide are demonstrating in different cities in solidarity with our friends in Kurdistan.


Activists and organisations including:

Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) UK
Kurdish People’s Assembly
Roj Women’s Group
Kurdish Student Union
Kurdish Community Centre Haringey
Halkevi Community Centre
Corporate Watch
Corner House
Brighton Kurdish Solidarity
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Notes for journalists:

1. Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurdish people have been divided across the region’s redrawn national boundaries. The region known as Kurdistan now lies within the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria
and Iran.
2. The region within Turkey’s borders is known as North Kurdistan.
3. The region has recently seen large scale repression by the Turkish military and includes the city of Suruç, where a bomb recently killed 32 young people who were volunteering to help rebuild Kobane after it was destroyed by ISIS late last year. It also includes the city of Cizre, where a curfew is currently being maintained by the Turkish military and where civilians are being killed daily.

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