The Camp Of Solidarity With Hasankeyf

11-17.Oct.2010 Hasankeyf / Batman

 

The Ilisu Dam project will submerge the magnificent cultural and natural richness of the ancient city of Hasankeyf and it will impact the Tigris Valley downstream. The city which has a population of 70 thousand will be evicted for the project. Construction work has been going on since the 2010 spring in the village nearest to the dam and in a resettlement site at “New Hasankeyf”. In spite of protests by the local people who are affected and widespread criticism from people and organizations both in Turkey and internationally, this destructive project is still being carried out!

The Turkish authorities initially sought – and obtained - finance for the dam from international financial institutions. However, as a result of both the strong protests against the project, and the failure of the Turkish authorities to proceed their financial and participation support in July 2009. In the following months, Turkey failed to obtain finance for the Ilisu project - one of the most controversial and contested dam projects currently planned internationally - from the Chinese government and from the companies involved in the project. Despite this, three Turkish banks (Akbank, Garantibank and Halkbank)  agreed to give fund for the dam,  whose construction has now become a matter of prestige for the current Turkish government, in January-February 2010. Four Turkish companies and Austria’s Andritz remain in the project. On July 13th 2010 after the rock fall in the old bazaar a person died and with this excuse the ancient city of Hasankeyf is completely closed to the visits and the first step of “unmanned Hasankeyf policy” has been taken. ,

The struggle against the Ilisu project, which will destroy the livelihoods of 75 thousand people and flood everlasting, the 12.000 years-old cultural-natural heritage of Hasankeyf, a site which meets the nine out of ten UNESCO World Heritage criteria, and drastically alter the rich eco-system of the Tigris with its myriad species of flora and fauna, has entered to its final phase.

Even though at first almost everyone considered our struggle unrealistic, our campaign, based on “protection against destruction”, “living in harmony with nature against being separated from it”, “local development against migration”, “production against consumption”, and “solidarity against individualism”, has managed to halt the Ilisu Dam project twice. Despite the fact that the construction works has once more restarted, we call, with the faith of having the power to cancel this project, everyone from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, from the Aegean to Mesopotamia and concerned people all over the world to participate in the October camp and build solidarity with our struggle.

Local communities, cultures and natural resources should not be destroyed for the economic benefits of vested interest groups! The conservation of Hasankeyf and the Tigris Valley - which have become very important symbols in our country against the destruction caused by Turkey’s current dam-building policy -  should be seen as our common mission...

Sam Grimshaw (a participant from New Zealand)

"The people of Hasankeyf are not alone in their struggle. Six days of discussion and debate have brought together hundreds of supporters of the town's campaign against the Ilisu Dam project. Over the course of the week the camp was visited by large numbers of ordinary citizens, concerned tourists, activists and reporters. Many came from the nearby cities of Batman and Diyarbakir. Many others came from much further afield: some from Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara, others from Italy, France, Austria, Germany and New Zealand.

One of the main objectives of the camp was to raise awareness of the archaeological, environmental and human impact that the dam will have not only on the town of Hasankeyf, but also on the whole stretch of the Tigris valley that will be submerged from Ilisu to Batman, not to mention the effects on the lower reaches of the Tigris in Iraq. Passing coachloads of tourists, both Turkish and foreign, were treated to a warm welcome with cups of tea and leaflets, and they left Hasankeyf with a better idea of the threat that this town is under. The final day of the camp was marked by peaceful protests against the closure of the old quarter and also against the construction of the resettlement blocks in the upper part of the valley.

It was not all angry debate and protests, however. The mood was enlivened by nightly concerts, spontaneous dancing, songs and stories around the campfire, and games for the children. Educational excursions were made to sites of natural and archaeological interest. Delicious food was provided daily by the cheerful women of Batman. All of this was set against the magnificent backdrop of the ancient town of Hasankeyf.

Let us hope that the powers that be come to their senses. Let us hope that they allow this beautiful site and its inhabitants to keep their heads above water and to enjoy more lively festivals such as this in years to come." 

 

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