Hasankeyf: A City On The Edge Of Disappearing

Summer is the time many Europeans find time to go across their region but also to cross the borders and visit the European and Asian Turkey, knowing that for political and humanitarian reasons reasons Turkey is still not ready and probably never will be ready to become part of the European Union.

But as Europeans looking at the marvellous beautify country we also should worry how they treat nature and do not mind, like the Chinese in their virus of financial growth, to put miles and miles under water to get more electricity.

Hasankeyf: a fairytale city located on both sides of Dicle (Tigris) River and among the most important trade, science and cultural centres of the ancient times

It is supposed that this amazing historic site was originally founded as one of the two towers established for the protection of the area upon the order of Byzantine Emperor Constantine in the 4th century.

The Unesco should take measures that Hasnkeyf, where more than 20 cultures have left their mark, as an important witness of the past, shall not be swept from the bottom. The testimonies of the ancient culture we should cherish. Having still some parts visible from the oldest civilizations, Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Persians humanity should take care that this buffer zone of the conflicts between the Romans and Sassanians shall stay there to attract visitors from all over the world, to get a picture of our world-history.

Not only Trukey will be affected. The Ilısu Dam is also expected to reduce the flow of the Tigris into Syria and Iraq, possibly exacerbating a six-year drought that has crippled agriculture in southern Iraq, said Kılıç. Upstream, the reservoir will inundate 300 historical sites and displace more than 25,000 people in Turkish towns along the Tigris, according to Dicle Tuba Kılıç, the Hasankeyf campaign coordinator for Turkey’s Nature Foundation.

When you look at the pictures of Rabirius you can imagine the the new city Yeni Hasankeyf never will be able to give the same spirit to the people who come to ‘hide’ in it. Once more we can see a functioning  society will be forced apart and most inhabitants have to find a whole new way of continuing with their lives, to be left with hurtful memories for what a society wanted to dispensary to grow economically.




Please do find also:

  1. Guest post: Ways of seeing Hasankeyf
  2. Sketching a vision for the future of Hasankeyf
  3. 5th Hasankeyf Ingathering
  4. Endangered Site: The City of Hasankeyf, Turkey
    The waters of the Tigris River gave rise to the first settlements of the Fertile Crescent in Anatolia and Mesopotamia—the cradle of civilization. The ancient city of Hasankeyf, built on and around the banks of the river in southeastern Turkey, may be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world, spanning some 10,000 years. Hasankeyf and its surrounding limestone cliffs are home to thousands of human-made caves, 300 medieval monuments and a unique canyon ecosystem—all combining to create a beguiling open-air museum.
    But the city, along with the archaeological artifacts still buried beneath it, is slated to become a sunken treasure. Despite widespread protests from local authorities, archaeologists, architects, preservationists and environmental groups, the massive hydroelectric Ilisu Dam is expected to be completed in 2013. The reservoir created by the dam will inundate the site’s caves and flood most of its structures.
  5. New Dam in Turkey Threatens to Flood Ancient City and Archaeological Sites
    today’s reigning power, the Turkish Republic, has a unique plan for Hasankeyf: submerging the ancient town beneath 200 feet (60 meters) of water.
    That will be the result of a hydroelectric dam now under construction in Ilısu village, 60 miles (97 kilometers) downstream from Hasankeyf. In February 2013, Turkey’s highest administrative court ordered construction to halt until an environmental impact assessment had been carried out.
    “Then the Turkish government just changed the regulation so that the Ilısu Dam doesn’t need an environmental impact assessment,” says Dicle Tuba Kılıç, the Hasankeyf campaign coordinator for Turkey’s Nature Foundation.
    The last major dam to be built under a regional development plan known as the Southeastern Anatolia Project, the Ilısu Dam will generate nearly 2 percent of Turkey’s electricity supply, and create an 11-billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Turkish officials say it will open later this year.
  6. Hasankeyf, Turkey: soon-to-be sunken treasure
    For two decades Hasankeyf has lived under threat of inundation by the waters of the Ilisu Dam, the country’s largest hydroelectric project. More than a mile long and 443ft high, when completed this year it will hold back the waters of the Tigris, creating a reservoir that will cover 121 square miles. In Hasankeyf, water levels are expected to rise by some 200ft, enough to lap the minaret’s upper balcony.
    It is arguable that fame would have protected Hasankeyf if Victorian artist David Roberts, whose record of ancient monuments popularised travel to Egypt and the Holy Land, had made it a little further north.
    The threat has certainly not gone unnoticed by scholars in Turkey and abroad, although the town and, indeed, Anatolia remain curiously unfamiliar even to adventurous travellers. “Imagine the outcry if it were Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat that was at risk of obliteration,” says Alex Mudd, sales director at Steppes Travel, a tour operator that specialises in the region. The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex, has lamented the impending loss of “one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world”, while the EU deplores the archaeological impact upon some 200 sites of historical and cultural interest. In 2008 the World Monuments Fund placed Hasankeyf on its watch list of the 100 most endangered sites.
  7. This was Hasankeyf
    The aim of our film is to describe the unique history of this land through its people’s memories and tales and to understand the connections the inhabitants have with their natural environment. We will attempt to uncover the deep and lasting relationship between man, the river and the lime stone of Hasankeyf. But we will also come across several more complex situations, such as the biunivocal interaction between people and progress or the struggle to imagine a future in a valley that in 2014 will be flooded by the waters of the Ilisu Dam project. Ever present in the film will be the ways in which Hasankeyf’s inhabitants’ perceive and deal with the prospect of losing the way of life that they know.


  • Turkish Town Has Hosted 12,000 Years of Human History & Stunning Biodiversity (newswatch.nationalgeographic.com)
    Almost nowhere in the world is human history as densely layered as it is in Hasankeyf. Strange sights greet its visitors: thousands of caves carved into limestone cliffs, children playing on the remains of a gargantuan medieval bridge, the towering minaret of a 15th-century mosque.The first known inhabitants of this place on the banks of the Tigris River in Southeastern Turkey settled here in Neolithic times, 12,000 years ago.Since then, Hasankeyf has been continuously inhabited by almost every major Mesopotamian civilization, though it reached its cultural and commercial apex between the 12th and 15th centuries when it served as the capital of the Turkmen Artukid and Kurdish Ayyubid dynasties.
  • Keeping Hasankeyf Alive: Against the Ilısu Dam (waterisliving.wordpress.com)
    Even though planned in the 1960s, the actual construction started in 2009. The Ilısu Dam is an integral part of the largest regional development project in Turkey named as the South-eastern Anatolia Project (GAP). As the name suggests, the GAP is located in the South-eastern region of Turkey. There are three important aspects of the GAP[ii]. First, this region is heavily populated by the Kurds and there has been an on-going war between the Turkish army and the Kurdish rebels for over decades. Second, the GAP consists of dozens of large dams and Hydro-electric Power Plants (HEPP) on the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which limit, to a great extent, the water flow that the downstream countries Iraq and Syria receive. Third, as the global water crisis discourse becomes more popular, the large water multi-nationals have developed an increasing interest in the water resources of the Middle East; a region having already serious water shortage. When these dimensions are considered, the complexity of the Ilısu case and the grand obstacles in front of the social movement against this project become clearer.
    The social movement against the Ilısu project emerged immediately after the official announcement of the project (1997). Some town councils, NGOs and Diyarbakir branch of the Union Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) came together to establish the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive. The name of the Initiative came from the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which would be inundated by the opposed Ilısu Dam if its construction was completed. The Initiative was formed as a justice seeking platform taking into account primarily the Kurdish problem rather than environmental impacts of the proposed project. It built alliance at the international level with the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP), Rivernet, International Rivers, Friends of the Earth and Export Credit Campaign (ECC). The key actors of the movement held an international campaign that targeted attention of the public and the decision-making units of the consortium countries. They held protest actions so that the multi-nationals and finance organisations within the consortium would withdraw from the Ilısu project. The campaign became successful in 2001 and became internationally recognised in the global environmental justice circles. However, it re-emerged in 2004 with a different consortium. It was understood that without a strong grassroots movement, the project would only be delayed, not eradicated.
  • Scenes from Turkey: Hasankeyf (eduardoakins.wordpress.com)
    Despite the important history that this Silk Road city possesses, including churches, mosques, cemeteries and dwellings built into the cliffs and conquests by Arabs, Mongols and the Ottoman Empire, Hasankeyf’s greatest challenge still lies ahead.The Ilisu Dam, once finished, threatens to flood the various archaeological sites of Hasankeyf.  Already the effects of tourism have left the riverfront in a miserable state, with debris alongside construction to accommodate the influx of tourists.Although we only had about an hour stopover, it was enough to leave a sour aftertaste.  Hopefully, the government will redirect its resources and preserve the historical value of the city, but knowing the track record of the current leader, you’re best off visiting sooner than later.
  • Silencing the Djinns (city-journal.org)
    Ali Ayhan is a shepherd in the ancient city of Hasankeyf, nestled between the Tigris River and the steep cliffs of the Tur Abdin Plateau in southeastern Turkey, about 65 miles from the Syrian and Iraqi borders. The waters of this river gave rise to the first settlements in Mesopotamia’s Fertile Crescent, the cradle of civilization. Old shepherd paths trace the canyons of the city; thousands of caves, churches, mosques, and ancient cemeteries are carved into its limestone cliffs.
  • The Forgotten Residents of Hasankeyf (treehugger.com)
    Though they will have to be relocated as the waters of the dam submerge their homes, residents of Hasankeyf will benefit from new employment opportunities, the expert report argued, adding that artifacts from some of the 550 archaeological sites and settlements in the area “can be moved to another location.” Both claims, though, remain heavily debated — and ignore the plight of inhabitants that can’t be moved, or even protest the decision.
  • Sores Dogan : Passport to Turkey (soresdoganviews.wordpress.com)
    There are few places in the world that have as rich of a history as Turkey. The area can trace its roots back to over 40,000 years ago encompassing thousands of rulers, hundreds of languages, and countless important moments in history.
  • Postcard from Hasankeyf, Turkey (davidhagerman.typepad.com)
    The city’s primary draw is an ancient town set high on rock cliffs. As we drove into town we were greeted immediately by hawkers selling picture books. As we strolled into town bus loads of tourists poured into the single street heading towards the kale eager to buy a souvenier  and get back on the road. But a quick right turn from the tourists and across the bridge spanning the Tigris River and we were in the middle of a herd of sheep heading home from a day of grazing in the upper hills surrounding the town.
  • Turkish dam threatens town that dates back to the bronze age (guardian.co.uk)
    Hasankeyf has survived drought, war and empire, but it could be flooded out of existence within a few years
    Hasankeyf and the Tigris river

    Hasankeyf has ‘housed all the civilisations of Mesopotamia’, but now faces being submerged by a dam project. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

    It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on Earth, a town on the banks of the Tigris that dates back to the bronze age.

    Over the years it has survived the rise and fall of empires, drought, war and the harsh vicissitudes of nature.

    But Hasankeyf is facing the prospect of being flooded out of existence as Turkish authorities seek to speed up a dam project in south-east Anatolia that will raise the level of the river by 60 metres (200ft).

    “Hasankeyf has housed all the civilisations of Mesopotamia,” says Idris Turan, a local guide. “Romans, Byzantines, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols and Ottomans – they have all passed through here and left their marks on the town.”

    The remains of a medieval bridge, one of the largest of its era, still withstand the currents of the Tigris.

    On the northern bank stands the 15th-century Zeynel Bey mausoleum, with its kufic tiles of glazed turquoise.

    More than 300 historical sites lie in and around Hasankeyf, many of them unexplored.

  • Dam Threatens Turkey’s Past and Future (icrindia.wordpress.com)
    Home to approximately 3,000 people, the site is one of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlements, with an archaeological record going back at least 9,500 years. Now, the Ilisu Dam – part of a massive hydroelectric project undertaken by the State Hydraulic Works – will flood Hasankeyf and the surrounding region, effectively washing away millennia of history. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=108101
  • Flooding out terror? Turkey’s Ilisu dam project (globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com)
    The Ilisu Dam project is part of the government-funded Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), which traces its origins to the early days of the Turkish republic when plans to utilize the Euphrates and Tigris rivers for energy generation and irrigation were first developed. However, GAP it still awaiting completion. Major fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military has prevented completion of the project since the 1990s.The PKK has enjoyed a great deal of sway in southeastern Turkey, using the mountainous terrain to their advantage in order to smuggle its members into Turkey from camps in Iraq. This area, which one of the authors visited, is pierced by canyons that run for tens of miles and are hundreds of feet deep. These canyons are almost impossible to properly monitor with a military force and form an effective land bridge between Iraq and Turkey that the PKK have used for decades.In fact, it would not be exaggerated to describe these canyons as sort of a “PKK highway”; a member of the group can enter one of these canyons in Iraq and literally walk hundreds of miles deep into Turkish territory undetected.

    Now this could all change: the large artificial lake to be created by the construction of the Ilisu dam would flood these canyons, blocking the “PKK highway.”


Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis probably wondered why I didn’t post a lot in June. The reason was that I was traveling.

Among other places, my journey took me to Hasankeyf, a small town in Eastern Turkey.

Welcome To Hasankeyf Welcome To Hasankeyf

It was my third visit to the city beautifully located at the river Tigris. The first time I was already mesmerized by the beauty of the city: The old cave houses, the large castle on the top of the rock, the remains of the old Roman bridge…

Though the danger of Hasankeyf vanishing due to the construction of the Ilısu Dam lingers for a while now, I heard earlier this year that in two years the city should be flooded.

I had already planed a trip to Eastern Turkey and therefore I decided to spend three days in Hasankeyf to experience this beautiful place…

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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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2 Responses to Hasankeyf: A City On The Edge Of Disappearing

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