Hasankeyf still in danger

Hasankeyf, an ancient city in the province of Batman, is facing the risk of being submerged into water because of the Il?su Dam and the already operating hydroelectric power plant in the area.

Hasankeyf is an ancient town divided into two by the Tigris river flowing from north to south. Its history dates back to ten thousand years ago. The town which hosted many civilizations and was an important center of trade in the past is also one of the most ancient settlements in Mesopotamia. Today it faces the risk of destruction of its culture, nature, and society.

The town is being visited during the Eid al-Adha by a large number of foreign and domestic tourists who are however facing barricades while wondering around to see the historical sites. The castle still remains closed with iron barricades. Their question as to why these barricades are there is answered by those selling souvenir before the barricades; “because of the Erdo?an government”.

On the Tigris river in South-eastern Anatolia the Ilisu dam project is one of the most controversial dam projects in the world. In spring of 2008 the actual construction work started, then with active help of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In July 2009, after three years of ongoing local and international protest and after continuous disregard of international standards, the three European states quit their contracts with Turkey and the project came to a halt. European banks and companies followd this step, only Austrian Andritz AG remains in the Ilisu project. 

In spring 2010 construction work re-started. Turkey now tries to finance the whole project by itself (without money from Europe) and to push ‘Ilisu’ through against the will of the local  population. The total construction time is projected with 7-8 years.

The Ilisu dam would have a devastating impact on the entire region of the upper Tigris valley. About 400 kilometres of the Tigris and its tributaries will be destroyed by the reservoir upstream and the artificial flood wave downstream from the power plant. Artificial flood waves will destroy the ecosystem below the dam, a habitat for some globally endangered species and so far undiscovered flora and fauna.

More than 200 archaeological sites including the beautiful city of Hasankeyf will be destroyed. In its surroundings 23 different cultures have left their traces, not to mention yet undiscovered sites witnessing 10,000 years of human history. Thousands of people will have to leave their homes; their settlements and agricultural land will be flooded. The plan to build Ilisu conflicts with international treaties, since the neighbouring countries Syria and Iraq were not consulted. Also ethnic conflicts in Anatolia will be intensified.

The Ilisu Dam would flood an area so rich in its cultural and natural heritage that it meets nine out of 10 UNESCO World Heritage Site criteria. It is the only place in the world to come that close to UNESCO’s requirements, according to a report published by Istanbul University Professor Zeynep Ahunbay, who is also President of ICOMOS Turkey (the International Council on Monuments and Sites that evaluates nominations for World Heritage Status).

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