Open letter calls for stop of the relocation of Zeynel Bey Tomb

The imminent relocation of the Zeynel Bey Tomb in Hasankeyf will lead to the start of the irreparable destruction of the cultural heritage of 12.000 years old town Hasankeyf and a large part of the Tigris valley in the mainly Kurdish Southeast of Turkey.

Since the beginning 2016 the Turkish company ER-BU Insaat and the Dutch company Bresser Eurasia work on the relocation of Zeynel Bey Tomb, one of the most significant symbols of Hasankeyf with its globally unique cultural and natural heritage. This relocation is done in the framework of the construction of the Ilisu Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant which is one of the most controversial dams in the world and in the last phase of its construction. In total, eight monuments are planned to be relocated before the completion of the Ilisu Project. The historical bridge pillars are in the process to be covered with stones and damaged for ever.

The whole process of the planned relocation of the Zeynel Bey Tomb was violating existing laws, particularly the tender and contracting process. There is globally no similar experience with the relocation of a monument of such an age and binding agent technology (550 years old). Considering that the monument is very fragile and in poor condition (there are splits in the cupola), it is expected that the lifting of 90 cm and the continuous vibrancy will lead very likely to serious damages or even to the destruction of the tomb. But even if it would be successfull, the relocation of the monuments in Hasankeyf would lead to the loss of their cultural significance through the disconnection to their natural environment. Among others, the outstanding value of Hasankeyf is the connection of cultural heritage and nature.

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, Mesopotamian Ecology Movement, Hasankeyf Matters, Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign and Humat Dijla Association sent an open letter to the Dutch company Bresser and the Ankara-based Turkish company ER-BU Insaat calling on both companies to stop the relocation of Zeynel Bey Tomb after a recent test for relocation has failed.

The open letter addressing to Mr. Taco Bresser from Bresser and Mr. Ercan Tunç and Burhan Çetin from ER-BU Insaat is as follows;

"The test conducted at the end of April 2017 for the planned relocation of the Zeynel Bey Tomb in Hasankeyf has failed. This failure demonstrates the severe threats with which the cultural heritage of Hasankeyf is faced due to the ongoing construction of the Ilisu Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant Project.

We demand in the strongest possible terms that you cease work immediately and withdraw from the project to relocate the Zeynel Bey Tomb. We cite again the ongoing case in the European Court of Human Rights, where Turkey's plan for cultural heritage conservation in Hasankeyf is disputed.

It is unacceptable that adequate measures were not taken to ensure that the test would be successful in the first attempt. This situation is especially disturbing after repeated assertions (both public and private) that there is no risk in this project.

Numerous inconsistencies and contradictions point to the fact that the planning for this project is flawed and that the risks of damage are higher than you have acknowledged:

* For years authorities have told the public that the tomb would be moved on rails, but within the last months the plan has changed and the tomb is to be moved by means of a trailer moving along a specially constructed road

* The timing of the move has been rushed, raising the likelihood of mistakes. The move was announced for April 18, but asphalting did not begin until the following week

* The 2 km distance over which the tomb is to be moved is extraordinarily long, with a significant incline, and the goal to move the structure within a single day is highly risky

* Over the past two years, there have been conflicting statements about the new location of the tomb.

* The encasement of the structure in concrete is a fundamentally destructive approach, as it changes the building significantly even while it stands on its original foundation

* The total weight moved during the test is 750 tons, but the weight of the tomb is estimated to be approximately 900 tons. 

* Rather than seeking to build trust with the public by sharing information and seeking the views and opinions of the local people, this project is shrouded in secrecy. There is not even a statement of work displayed at the site. The lack of transparency raises the risks of the project, as it precludes adequate vetting of the technical plans to ensure that all flaws and vulnerabilities have been addressed.

Individuals and civil society organizations all over the world express regularly their opposition to the planned flooding of Hasankeyf and the surrounding Tigris Valley. In order to raise the awareness about the risks of the planned relocation of the Zeynel Bey Tomb, Humat Dijla/Tigris Keepers Association in Baghdad has started a campaign in Iraq, which is also severely threatened by the Ilisu Project.

The relocation of the Zeynel Bey Tomb would be an unforgivable act of cultural heritage destruction and a violation of the human rights of the local people. We hold your firms accountable for your part in the violation of Turkish law and the common international standards governing historic preservation and sustainable development.

We demand the cancellation of the project to relocate the Zeynel Bey Tomb, the immediate stop of the Ilisu Project and a broad discussion among all stakeholders to establish a consensus for socio-cultural development in the region."

The letter is signed by;

Ercan Ayboga

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, Hasankeyf/Batman and Mesopotamian Ecology Movement, Diyarbakir

John Crofoot

Hasankeyf Matters, Istanbul/Hasankeyf

Toon Bijnens

Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, Sulaymaniyah

Ali Al-Kharki

Humat Dijlah/Tigris Keepers Association, Baghdad

Ismaeel Dawood

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