‘They are barbaric’: Turkey prepares to flood 12,000-year-old city to build dam
The ancient settlement of Hasankeyf will soon be submerged as part of a controversial dam project – despite residents’ protests
Construction work on the dam and its hydroelectric power plant started in 2006 and Hasankeyf is now just weeks away from destruction, despite a fight by residents and environmental campaigners to save it. The Turkish government has given residents until 8 October to evacuate.
The scheme will mean the flooding of 199 settlements in the region, thousands of human-made caves and hundreds of historical and religious sites. Campaigners warn that close to 80,000 people will be displaced.
Walking along the mountainside facing the town, Ayhan reached a cave clearly marked with an engraved cross, indicating an ancient church. “It’s not just our story, Hasankeyf, it’s also your story, because it’s the human story,” he said.
Under the church is a tomb where piles of human bones have surfaced. “The government doesn’t even respect the dead,” Ayhan said. “They are barbaric.”
The professor says Hasankeyf is a laboratory that could provide many answers about the past. “Such rare physical evidence of the human past must be protected at all cost,” Ozoglu said.
With the deadline handed down by the government, people from the surrounding areas have come to say farewell to the historical site, knowing it will be their last chance to see it.
“I cannot see very many other places on Earth that deserve [more] to be on the list of Unesco’s protected sites,” Ozoglu said.
A spokesperson at the ministry of energy and natural resources was also contacted. “Why do you want to talk about Hasankeyf when we have so many other projects?” was their only comment.
The government has built a “new Hasankeyf” for 700 households, 3km away from historical Hasankeyf, to relocate residents before 8 October. But Eyup Agalday, 27, said he and his wife were not offered their own home in the new settlement, as the government has a cutoff for those married after 2014. “I will have to live with my parents again– the whole family of 10 members will be in the one house,” he said.
Sitting under the shade of bountiful grapevines on the opposite side of the river, Hediye Tapkan, 38, said she had no idea where her family, including five young children, will go. “We like our place, we make our bread here, we have lots of grapes and figs which sometimes we sell, our lands are productive,” she said.
“[If we don’t,] when we die, our children will come and spit on our graves and say, why didn’t you save Hasankeyf?” Ayhan said.Read more: The Guardian
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