‘They are barbaric’: Turkey prepares to inundate 12,000-year-old city to build dam

6 min read

After a half-hour expostulate from Batman in south-east Turkey, a ancient city of Hasankeyf, that sits on a banks of a Tigris River, appears as an oasis.

Hasankeyf is suspicion to be one of a oldest invariably inhabited settlements on Earth, dating as distant behind as 12,000 years and containing thousands of caves, churches and tombs.

But this valuables of tellurian story will shortly be lost; many of a allotment is about to be flooded as partial of a rarely argumentative Ilisu dam project.

Construction work on a dam and a hydroelectric appetite plant started in 2006 and Hasankeyf is now usually weeks divided from destruction, notwithstanding a quarrel by residents and environmental campaigners to save it. The Turkish supervision has given residents until 8 Oct to evacuate.

An try to plea a plan during a European justice of tellurian rights on a drift that it would repairs a country’s informative birthright was unsuccessful.

A print of a aged university of Hasankeyf – pronounced to have been a oldest in a universe – before it was broken in Jan 2019 forward of a flooding. Photograph: Courtesy of Eyup Agalday

First recognised as distant behind as a 1950s, a dam plan has prolonged been mired in controversy. On a execution it will be a fourth biggest dam in Turkey and is likely to beget 4,200 gigawatts hours of electricity annually, yet during a outrageous cost.

The intrigue will meant a flooding of 199 settlements in a region, thousands of human-made caves and hundreds of chronological and eremite sites. Campaigners advise that tighten to 80,000 people will be displaced.

They also advise of terrible repairs to a healthy environment, observant biodiversity will suffer, and that countless exposed and involved class are threatened by a construction of a dam.

Ridvan Ayhan, who was innate in one of a caves in Hasankeyf, is an active member in a Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, founded in 2006 as a grassroots debate to hindrance a dam project.

Ridvan Ayhan, now scarcely 60, of a Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive. He was innate in one of Hasankeyf’s caves. Photograph: Tessa Fox/The Guardian

Walking along a mountainside confronting a town, Ayhan reached a cavern clearly noted with an engraved cross, indicating an ancient church. “It’s not usually a story, Hasankeyf, it’s also your story, given it’s a tellurian story,” he said.

It is conflicting what year a church dates behind to. Only 10% of a area has been explored by archaeologists.

“We’ve asked for a area to be an alfresco museum yet a supervision wouldn’t accept it,” Ayhan said. “If we puncture here we will find cultures layered on tip of one another.”

Under a church is a tomb where piles of tellurian skeleton have surfaced. “The supervision doesn’t even honour a dead,” Ayhan said. “They are barbaric.”

Hasankeyf has been partial of many conflicting cultures in a prolonged history, including ancient Mesopotamia, Byzantium, Arab empires and a Ottoman empire, yet Hakan Ozoglu, a story highbrow during a University of Central Florida, pronounced a allotment predates all these civilisations.

The designed Ilisu Dam.

“We have references to a city in several ancient texts in conflicting languages such as Assyrian, Armenian, Kurdish, Arabic,” he said.

The highbrow says Hasankeyf is a laboratory that could yield many answers about a past. “Such singular earthy justification of a tellurian past contingency be stable during all cost,” Ozoglu said.

Many residents of Hasankeyf still live in caves. Photograph: Tessa Fox/The Guardian

Only 8 chronological monuments – including a building from what was pronounced to be a oldest university in a world, half of an aged Roman embankment to a city and a women’s hamam dating to around 1400 – have been saved from Hasankeyf. The pieces were changed 3km divided and now mount on a immeasurable plain.

“It’s incomprehensible for us to see these chronological pieces there,” Ayhan said.

With a deadline handed down by a government, people from a surrounding areas have come to contend farewell to a chronological site, meaningful it will be their final possibility to see it.

Few tourists revisit a area, however, due to a inaccessibility.

Ozoglu pronounced a advantage from a dam can't come tighten to that of a intensity of tourism that would be improved marketed if it had Unesco’s name trustworthy to it.

A 1,000-tonne tomb from a 15th century that was changed from a place in Hasankeyf encampment to mount alone nearby a new settlement. It is is one of usually 8 chronological monuments that were saved from a dam project. Photograph: Tessa Fox/The Guardian

“I can't see really many other places on Earth that merit [more] to be on a list of Unesco’s stable sites,” Ozoglu said.

Ayhan shook his conduct when Unesco was mentioned – a Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive had already practical unsuccessfully for a allotment to be listed.

“Unesco pronounced a enlightenment method has to request for it,” Ayhan said. “We wrote to a method yet no answer … It’s their avocation yet they didn’t do anything.” The Turkish method of enlightenment and tourism would not comment.

A orator during a method of appetite and healthy resources was also contacted. “Why do we wish to speak about Hasankeyf when we have so many other projects?” was their usually comment.

The Turkish authorities’ crackdown on protests has also hindered Hasankeyf residents’fight to stop a dam.

“If we protest, they take us to prisons,” Ayhan said. “There’s no democracy here. If there was democracy, maybe we could do something.” He says he was arrested in 2012.

The supervision has usually built 700 new homes for a “new Hasankeyf”, even yet a race of a encampment has risen almost given 1974, when a figure of 700 households was taken. Photograph: Tessa Fox/The Guardian

The supervision has built a “new Hasankeyf” for 700 households, 3km divided from chronological Hasankeyf, to immigrate residents before 8 October. But Eyup Agalday, 27, pronounced he and his mother were not offering their possess home in a new settlement, as a supervision has a cutoff for those married after 2014. “I will have to live with my relatives again– a whole family of 10 members will be in a one house,” he said.

Agalday, like his ancestors, is a shepherd, and now lives in in one of Hasankeyf’s many caves. He will not be authorised to take his animals to a new encampment and has started offering his goats. “I am forced to do something and be in a city where we don’t wish to live,” he said.

Agalday pronounced about a fifth of Hasankeyf’s residents have already changed to a new settlement, with around 5 or 6 families relocating any day. A immature pick-up lorry could be speckled from next with effects and seat piled high, creation a approach out of Hasankeyf.

Hediye Tapkan and her family had wanted to reconstruct their residence and extend their fig groves. Photograph: Tessa Fox/The Guardian

Sitting underneath a shade of copious grapevines on a conflicting side of a river, Hediye Tapkan, 38, pronounced she had no thought where her family, including 5 immature children, will go. “We like a place, we make a bread here, we have lots of grapes and figs that infrequently we sell, a lands are productive,” she said.

Tapkan and her family have also not been offering a deputy home, even yet they were allegedly forced to sell some of their land – during 900 Turkish lira for 1 dunum, or £125 for 1,000 sq metres – for a construction of a new village.

As a residents wait for a floodgates to open and for Hasankeyf to be solemnly submerged by a rising river, they contend they will continue to lift their voices and widespread a summary of a settlement’s history, even after entrance to it is criminialized in October.

“[If we don’t,] when we die, a children will come and separate on a graves and say, because didn’t we save Hasankeyf?” Ayhan said.

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