Worldwide actions for Hasankeyf against Ilısu Dam
Demonstrations have been organized in 16 cities around the world on Saturday against the Ilısu Dam at the Tigris River, one of the most worldwide controversial dams.
Demonstrations have been organized in 16 cities around the world on Saturday against the Ilısu Dam at the Tigris River, one of the most worldwide controversial dams. If completed the Ilısu Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant Project with its expected grave social, ecological, cultural and downstream impacts would become a large scale disaster.
With the slogan “We are here to defend Hasankeyf and the Tigris River, thus to defend life!” the central demonstration was held in the 12.000 years old Hasankeyf at the Tigris River. Members of 50 civil organizations from Istanbul, which created two weeks ago a new bloc called “Volunteers for Hasankeyf”, as well as dozens of civil organizations from the Kurdish region traveled to Hasankeyf in order to meet local activists from the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive (HYG) and people of Hasankeyf. They have not been intimidated by the state of emergency and the ongoing armed conflict in the close mountains. The police presence never was so intensive like today, it filmed everybody joining the press statement.
On Sunday, the ‘Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign’ organized the first two actions in the Iraqi cities Baghdad and Najaf which would suffer also from the Ilısu Dam, and on Saturday a group protested in Silemani, Southern Kurdistan. The Tigris is crucial for the drinking water supply and agriculture of most people of Iraq. People from Iran showed solidarity via social media; in spring several Iranian NGO’s started a petition to the UN General Secretary against the Ilısu Project.
People of Hasankeyf informed the Volunteers for Hasankeyf that the relocation to New-Hasankeyf, just 2 km north far away, would end up for them in debt with no measures for income restoration. Actually up to 80.000 people, mainly Kurds, in 199 villages are faced with this risk. These people live for decades with the outstanding cultural heritage of Hasankeyf and the surrounding Tigris Valley which includes 400 archaeological sites almost not excavated. It is not by accident that experts claim that Hasankeyf fulfill 9 of 10 Unesco criteria.
“The world looks without no reaction how one of the most important cultural sites of human history is planned to be flooded. Hasankeyf is our identity We fight against this project for almost 20 years, but this government does not listen to nobody in our country” said Ridvan Turan, a resident. It’s time that globally relevant culture is defended by the global community! Hasankeyf has a strong symbolic value for people in the larger region.
That is why for the second time a global action day has been declared by the HYG. People in 16 cities followed this call. From Iraq to many places in Europe: Rome, Bilbao, Brighton/UK, Geneva, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Hannover, Munich, Kaspach, Vienna and even in Port Townsend in Washington/USA; Barcelona was planned, but had to be canceled due to the political situation.
The Turkish government says that the dam is nearly completed. But, in the view of activists and affected people, it is not too late to reconsider. Tourism in combination with conservation of the cultural and natural heritage would have economically more benefit for the affected areas and the whole state. People do not want this imposed “development” project which is beneficial only for the government and some companies.
“It is not exaggerated to say that the planned submergence of Hasankeyf is in the same line like the destruction of Palmyra in Syria by “Islamic State” and the Buddha temples in Afghanistan by the alike terrorist Taliban. The mentality of the Turkish government is close”, said the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive concerning the planned destruction of the ancient town.
When in mid-August 2017 explosives were used to blow up several rocks at the citadel of Hasankeyf, a new wave of protest has emerged all over Turkey. This action triggered the start of a new level in the destruction of the outstanding cultural and natural heritage. Cultural heritage removal has also been started. In May 2017 the first of 9 monuments, the Zeynel Bey Tomb, was relocated. This relocation is opposed by HYG and others because it is limited to up to 9 of more than 300 monuments and harms the monuments by relocating and disconnecting them from their specific environment.
The protests of the action day have been directed to the Turkish government, to the Austrian company Andritz (building the hydroelectric power plant) and Dutch company Bresser (relocating monuments) and the Turkish banks Akbank and Garantibank (main shareholder: BBVA/Spain). Also the Iraqi government and international organizations – particularly UNESCO - have been criticized because they keep silent due to political interests with Turkey.
HYG underlined that: “The action day was a further important step to continue with the pressure on all responsible institutions and companies. The campaign will continue without doubt as there is the big historical responsibility to defend culture and nature of such importance! Hasankeyf and Tigris is the life itself!”