Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Open letter to the Government of Turkey, the suppliers to the Ilısu Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant Project, and the Members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee

Excavation, documentation and conservation of
cultural heritage in Hasankeyf must continue

24 March 2020

The newly opened Hasankeyf Museum – constructed to preserve some of the artifacts salvaged from Hasankeyf and the region before flooding by Turkey’s controversial Ilısu Hydroelectric Dam – presents a sweeping narrative of the region’s history. The exhibit begins with the geological formation of the Upper Tigris basin, continues through the appearance of organized human settlements in the Neolithic period, and culminates in the city’s flourishing under the Artukids, Ayyubids, and Akkoyunlus in the 12th-15th centuries CE.

The museum collection is impressive not only in its historical scope, but also for the beauty of individual pieces, including rare examples of Neolithic pottery, early Islamic gravestones, and stucco reliefs in the style of the Great Seljuks. Despite its remarkable assets, however, the museum cannot disguise the fact that it is a by-product of the multi-billion-euro Ilısu Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant project, which has brought about the destruction of natural and cultural heritage of inestimable value, denying the affected peoples their right to access their cultural heritage (guaranteed by Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights [ICESCR]) and to be consulted systematically in projects involving the alteration of historic buildings (as enshrined in the Granada Convention, Article 14, and Turkish Approval Law No 3534*).

The museum, together with the reinforced Citadel Mount and the archaeological park (where seven monuments removed from the lower city now stand), constitutes the government’s program to preserve the ancient city’s cultural heritage. Despite its lofty ambitions, this conservation program is deeply flawed on several counts. Two of its most egregious failings are: 1) insufficient coverage of the early Islamic period and 2) the total exclusion of the long-enduring Christian element.

The museum’s coverage of the early Islamic period is limited to a small number of coins and two stones engraved with an early style of Arabic calligraphy. Executed with angular letters in one example, rounded in the other, these inscriptions are two of the most intriguing and important objects in the museum, particularly as stone inscriptions from the early Islamic period are few in number. The discovery of these stones suggests that further archaeological excavation in the lower city of Hasankeyf may well yield new information about the development of Islamic civilization in Upper Mesopotamia in the 7th-9th centuries – a period of history only partially illuminated by textual sources.

Regarding the museum’s coverage of Hasankeyf’s Christian legacy, the display of Christian artifacts consists of five crosses from the Byzantine period, and a visitor would be forgiven for leaving the museum with the idea that the city’s Christian history ended with the Islamic conquest in 640 CE.

This gap in the historical narrative advanced in the Hasankeyf Museum is unconscionable, as there is ample evidence showing that Christians and Christianity played a significant role in the city’s cultural and economic life for more than 1300 years following the advent of Islam.** In the 10th century, for example, Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi notes the city’s numerous churches,*** while Ottoman records from the late 16th century indicate that of 1700 households in Hasankeyf, nearly 60 percent were Christian.**** There is also significant immovable cultural heritage remaining in Hasankeyf today that attests to the historical Christian presence, including cave churches on either side of the lower city. Stone masonry structures include the Tareke Church^ at the heart of the lower city (near the original site of the Rizk Mosque), Deiriki Church (also known as the Church of the Forty Martyrs^^) below the southeastern corner of the Citadel, and the Monastery of Mor Aho, which was endowed by residents of the villages of Atafiye and Difne/Üçyol in the 16th century.^^^,^*

Tareke Church, Kale Neighborhood, Hasankeyf
Saha Church, Hasankeyf

It is a dereliction of Turkey’s duty as owner of the historic city of Hasankeyf to leave the immovable cultural heritage of the city’s erstwhile Christian community undocumented and unprotected. Today, Hasankeyf residents continue to value the Christian dimension of their cultural heritage, recounting their experiences working side-by-side with Christian neighbors as they began their careers as tailors, weavers, or traders. Many note that just a few generations back their families had been Christian. And residents often share their knowledge about Hasankeyf’s Christian districts, churches and monasteries.^**

The total erasure of the Christian legacy from the Hasankeyf landscape, whether due to neglect or otherwise, would constitute a severe and reprehensible violation of the universal human right to participate in the cultural life of the community, including access to cultural heritage. Urgent action is required to ensure that these monuments are not lost due to their express exclusion from the government’s cultural heritage conservation program for Hasankeyf. The 2003 UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage affirms that “cultural heritage is an important component of the cultural identity of communities, groups and individuals, and of social cohesion, so that its intentional destruction may have adverse consequences on human dignity or human rights.” There is no justification for the near-total exclusion of Christianity from the museum and the adjacent collection of monuments transferred from the ancient city.

To remedy this situation, the Turkish government must, at a minimum, halt the filling of the Ilısu Reservoir (by opening the flood gates to allow a controlled flow of water) and continue archaeological excavations in order to document and preserve important aspects of Hasankeyf’s cultural heritage, focusing in particular on the early Islamic period, the enduring Christian element, and the evolution of Muslim-Christian interactions from the 7th to 20th centuries. The continuation of archaeological excavation and conservation work would also create employment opportunities for local residents who face an extended period of economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, its negative impact on the tourism sector.

We also demand that all strategic partners in the Ilısu Dam project supply chain, especially the companies Andritz, Nurol, Cengizler, Er-Bu and Bresser, and the banks GarantiBBVA and Akbank, use their leverage to avert the total elimination of Hasankeyf’s Christian legacy.

Furthermore, UNESCO’s silence on the Hasankeyf controversy is unacceptable. Although Hasankeyf very likely meets 9 of 10 criteria for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List^***, the provision that only States Parties can nominate a site has kept it from being recognized for protection, despite years of pleas from civil society, municipalities and scientists. The Ilısu Dam project has progressed in an atmosphere of intermittent armed conflict and ongoing repression of civil rights, where affected peoples and diverse stakeholders have been repeatedly and strongly discouraged from expressing their views. Therefore, the flooding of Hasankeyf and the Upper Tigris basin is a violation of the basic human right to participate in the cultural life of the community, which is affirmed by the ICESCR (Article 15), as well as a violation of the Granada Convention (CETS 121, Article 14), which requires systematic and sustained consultation with the public regarding the alternation of historic buildings.

We call upon the Members of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to urgently create mechanisms affording diverse stakeholders (including affected peoples, civil society organizations, scholars, and others) to make their concerns known and to play a substantive role in identifying candidate sites for World Heritage listing and monitoring/managing listed sites.


Hasankeyf Matters
Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive
The Corner House
FIVAS Association for International Water Studies
Humat Dijlah (Tigris River Protectors Association)
Save the Tigris Campaign


** For photographs of the monuments noted here, see: http://www.hasankeyfmatters.com/2020/02/the-disappearing-christian-heritage-of.html
*** “Hisn Kaifa,” Encyclopedia of Islam, 1st edition, Leiden: Brill, 1913-36.
**** According to the İslam Ansiklopedisi (“Hasankeyf,” İslam Ansiklopedisi, 16. Cilt, İstanbul: Diyanet Vakfı, 1997.
^ Oluş Arık, Hasankeyf: Üç Dünyanın Buluştuğu Kent, p. 188-90.
^^ Gernot Wiessner, “Derike: Kirche der vierzig Märtyrer,” Christliche Kultbauten im Tur Abdin, Teil IV, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1993, p. 129-36.
^^^ Gernot Wiessner, “Üçyol (Difne), Der el-Muhr: Klosterkirche,” Christliche Kultbauten im Tur Abdin, Teil I, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1982, p. 110-115.
^* According to a note in Arabic dated 1560, the endowment/waqf for the monastery was established in 1543. See Academia.edu for English original of A. Palmer, 'La montagne aux LXX monasteres: geographie monastique de Tur 'Abdin', in F. Jullien (ed.), Le monachisme syriaque (Paris 2012), p. 22.
^** cf. Andreas Fink, Der arabische Dialekt von Hasankeyf am Tigris (Osttürkei): Geschichte – Grammatik – Texte – Glossar, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2017, p. 19.
^*** Zeynep Ahunbay and Özge Balkız, “Outstanding Universal Value of Hasankeyf and the Tigris Valley,” Doğa Derneği, https://www.dogadernegi.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Outstanding-universal-value-of-hasankeyf-and-the-tigris-valley.pdf

Monday, February 17, 2020

The disappearing Christian heritage of Hasankeyf

The recently opened Hasankeyf Museum in the new town offers visitors an extraordinary glimpse of everyday life in the Neolithic age – when humans first began living in settled communities. Its collection of archaeological and architectural remains from Hasankeyf also includes rare examples of early Islamic gravestones, Roman and Late-Roman/Byzantine jewelry and coins, and architectural decorations from the middle centuries of Islamic civilization, when Hasankeyf was ruled by a succession of dynasties: Artukid, Ayyubid and Akkoyunlu.

While the historical scope of the museum is impressive, its presentation of artifacts from Hasankeyf’s Christian community is surprisingly weak. Indeed, many visitors will no doubt leave with the idea that the city’s Christian history ended with the advent of Islam in the 7th century. But ample evidence shows that a significant portion of Hasankeyf’s population remained Christian for more than 1300 years afterward.

In the 10th century, for example, Arab geographer al-Muqaddisi notes the city’s numerous churches,* while Ottoman records from the late 16th century indicate that of 1700 households in Hasankeyf, nearly 60 percent were Christian.**

There is also considerable physical evidence attesting to a vibrant Christian community enduring into the later centuries of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, most of this has been left unprotected beneath the waters of the new Ilısu Dam reservoir.

Take, for example, the cave church at the foot of Ra’s Kayim, the hill at the eastern edge of Hasankeyf’s lower city. Its interior walls are adorned in a pattern of crosses carved from the stone.

Cave church at foot of Ra's Kayim

Cave church interior walls

In the cave chapel of Saha Valley, at the southwest corner of the lower city, there is a distinctive cross and a number of graves.

Cave chapel in Saha Valley

Cross inside Saha Valley cave chapel

There are also stone masonry churches in the heart of the city and its outlying districts, such as Tareke Church, hidden among the houses above the recently demolished Hasankeyf market. This church, which reflects a building style common throughout southeastern Turkey and Northern Iraq, is believed to have been the only structure to survive the demolition of a Christian neighborhood during construction of a highway bridge in the early 1970s.*** 

Tareke Church

Tareke Church detail

While Tareke Church and the cave churches on the edge of the lower city will soon be flooded, Deiriki Church (which stands behind the Citadel) and Mor Aho Monastery (on the outskirts of Defne or Üç Yol Village) will both remain on dry land. However, without proper conservation, these monuments will likely succumb to the forces of time and vandals. They require urgent attention to ensure that they are preserved in a way that safeguards both their structural viability and historical authenticity.

Mor Aho Monastery

Mor Aho Monastery interior

Deiriki Church
Deiriki Church

Deiriki Church detail

The Hasankeyf Museum’s display of five crosses from the Byzantine period in no way suffices to document the long, rich history of Christianity in the region. It is particularly disturbing that the caves and stone masonry structures attesting to the contribution of Christian communities to the cultural life of Hasankeyf across millennia are largely undocumented, unprotected and absent from the new Hasankeyf Museum and Archaeological Park. The museum also completely ignores the important role Christians played in the city’s social and cultural history under Muslim rule, missing the opportunity to explore how these communities interacted with one another throughout the ages.

Today, the region’s Christian population is dwindling rapidly. This fact only heightens the urgency with which the Turkish Government must act to conserve the cultural heritage of diverse civilizations in Hasankeyf, rather than allowing it to disappear – either due to flooding by the Ilısu Reservoir or to benign neglect.

We call upon the Turkish authorities to stop the filling of the Ilısu Reservoir so that work may continue to research and document the important aspects of cultural heritage, including Hasankeyf’s Christian past, that have been neglected or omitted from the historical narrative presented in the Hasankeyf Museum. 

Notes on sources:

* “Hisn Kaifa,” Encyclopedia of Islam, 1st edition, Leiden: Brill, 1913-36.

** According to the İslam Ansiklopedisi (“Hasankeyf,” İslam Ansiklopedisi, 16. Cilt, İstanbul: Diyanet Vakfı, 1997).

*** Oluş Arık, Hasankeyf: Üç Dünyanın Buluştuğu Kent, p. 188-90.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Latest news from Hasankeyf

The waters of the Ilısu Dam reservoir are starting to rise, but people are still fighting to save Hasankeyf and let the world know about the irreparable damage being done to cultural heritage, ecosystems, and communities.

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates. We are also compiling recent media coverage of Hasankeyf on our In the News page.

Additional resources on Twitter for those who understand Turkish include the accounts of Hasankeyf'i Yașatma Girişimi and Hasankeyf Koordinasyonu and the hashtag #HasankeyfİçinGeçDeğil -- It's Not Too Late for Hasankeyf. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Bresser’s conduct in last year’s relocation of the Zeynel Bey Tomb did not comply with OECD Guidelines

*** The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive *** Hasankeyf Matters ***
*** FIVAS – The Association for International Water Studies ***

The Dutch NCP for the OECD Guidelines has concluded that Bresser, a small to medium-size Dutch enterprise, “has not fully met the expectations and satisfied the due diligence criteria of the OECD Guidelines” in the project to relocate the Zeynel Bey Tomb, in Hasankeyf, in Southeastern Turkey. The tomb is a late-15th-century monument of extraordinary cultural value and a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of the region. Its relocation impacts the human right to culture of the affected people. Companies of all sizes are expected to consider and minimize the potential impact of their activities on human rights.

The NCP notes that Bresser made some effort to carry out due diligence with regard to the involvement of the local community, but recommends that Bresser adopt a more structured approach before engaging in a project, in order to avoid contributing to adverse human rights impacts. In order to avoid a violation of the human right to culture, a broad consultation with all stakeholders, including the local community, should have been conducted prior to the removal of the Zeynel Bey Tomb. The NCP’s statement also confirms that under the Guidelines, companies of all sizes, regardless of their location in the supply chain, are responsible for conducting adequate due diligence in order to prevent adverse impacts to human rights, including the right to culture/the right to cultural heritage and its conservation.

On August 20, the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (“the Guidelines”) published its final statement concerning the notification about Bresser. (A Turkish translation of the final statement is available here.) The final statement notes that the parties did not reach an agreement through a mediated dialogue. In its final statement, the NCP recommends changes in Bresser’s behavior. The notification was filed by the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive (Turkey), Hasankeyf Matters (Turkey), and the Association for International Water Studies (FIVAS, Norway).

Bresser, working as a sub-contractor to the Turkish firm Er-Bu İnşaat, supplied the technology and skills essential to the relocation of the Zeynel Bey Tomb. The monument was built as the burial place of an Akkuyunlu prince killed in battle against the Ottomans in 1473. The tomb was relocated on May 12, 2017, under the protection of armed security forces, as part of the controversial Ilisu Dam project, which is expected to flood the ancient city of Hasankeyf and large parts of the Tigris River Valley.

Plaintiffs urge Bresser to cease work in Hasankeyf
The organizations that filed the complaint have asked Bresser to cease all activity in Hasankeyf until a proper human rights assessment and the attendant due diligence are carried out. The plaintiffs maintain that Bresser’s contribution to moving the Tomb without the involvement and consent of the local population and other stakeholders makes the company responsible for a violation of the human right to culture. A sufficient due diligence would have made it possible for the company to identify and mitigate the adverse impacts. By moving the monument without consultation and infringing upon human rights, the project is also in breach of both Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (CETS 121) as well as what is considered best practice for a European structural relocation company.

The NCP’s recommendations
The NCP states that that Bresser should have used its leverage “as a supplier of essential technical knowledge and experience” and should have “ensured more thoroughly with the main contractor [Er-Bu İnşaat] and/or DSI, that procedures are in place providing sufficient opportunities for stakeholders to participate in project development and implementation.” The NCP states that this case shows that Bresser has not fully carried out the due diligence necessary to satisfy the expectations of the criteria of the OECD guidelines. The NCP further notes that Bresser did some efforts to carry out due diligence, but that these measures were not adequate to meet fully the expectations established by the Guidelines. The NCP recommends that the company adopt a more structured approach and show a clearer inclusion of risks external to the company in their risk management system.

All companies have a responsibility to conduct due diligence
This decision is noteworthy for the international business community, as it affirms that all companies, including SMEs, have a responsibility to conduct risk-based due diligence under the Guidelines. The NCP acknowledges that “the size of the enterprise does not affect its responsibility to conduct due diligence, but may affect its manner of carrying out due diligence.”

It is also worth nothing that the Dutch NCP confirms that cultural rights are part of human rights, meaning that international businesses of all sizes and status in supply chains should include the potential adverse impacts on cultural rights and the right to cultural heritage and its conservation as part of human rights risk-based due diligence processes.

The project continues to deny the right to stakeholder consultation
It is alarming to observe that Bresser continues to assist Er-Bu and the DSI in the removal of select architectural elements. On August 6, the historic hamam (bath) was relocated using techniques similar to those used in removing the tomb, but now with even less transparency/public disclosure. The project continues to exclude a broad cross-section of relevant stakeholders, including the local community and independent experts in cultural heritage conservation, from the selection of monuments, the manner of removal, and their future location.

While the final statement makes clear that Bresser’s actions and policies have not fully met the expectations established in the Guidelines, the fact that Bresser continues to participate in the removal of Hasankeyf monuments, with virtually no change in its behavior, raises questions about how the OECD Guidelines can help commercial enterprises to identify potential synergies between ethical corporate behavior and the creation of economic value.

We call upon Bresser to halt all work in Hasankeyf until the cultural heritage conservation project is conducted in a way that meets the expectations established in the Guidelines.

The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive
Hasankeyf Matters

Zeynel Bey Tomb, new location, (from southeast, May 2018)

Zeynel Bey Tomb, new location (from northwest, May 2018)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Stand against the destruction of Hasankeyf: Join the Global Action Day on 28 April

Spring in Hasankeyf is typically a joyful time of new growth – of flowers blooming in the canyons and gardens, of young lambs and kids tottering about on unsteady legs, of wild herbs ripe for the picking and cooking. This year, though, the feeling is more of endings than beginnings as pressure mounts on Hasankeyf shopkeepers to vacate the historic bazaar and work continues apace to cover the cliff face of the citadel mount and create access roads for the relocation of monuments.

Construction of earthen wall in front of the Citadel (March 2018)

But it is still not too late to save Hasankeyf.

A long tradition of gardening continues to this day (March 2018)
The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive and the Mesopotamia Ecology Movement have called for 28 April 2018 to be a Global Action Day for Hasankeyf and Sûr, the historic center of Diyarbakır (Amed in Kurdish), which has also sustained serious damage to its cultural heritage.

"Hasankeyf and Sûr are two historical sites inhabited by people continuously for thousands of years at the Tigris River in Upper Mesopotamia," the organizers write. "The two places have also become symbols of resistance against ecological and social destruction by large investment projects."

You can join that resistance by organizing creative solidarity actions in your own towns and cities on Saturday, 28 April 2018, to raise awareness about what is going on in Hasankeyf and Sûr, and to urge governments, companies, banks, and international organizations like the UN to either cease their involvement with the destructive projects in both places or speak out against them.

With public pressure from individuals and civil-society organizations, the Action Day organizers write, "the defense of these two sites is still possible and may give hope against further cultural, social, and ecological destruction and strengthen the perspective for peace."

For more information about the Global Action Day, contact The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive.

New bridge and road construction for removal of monuments (March 2018)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Hasankeyf merchants to protest DSİ's eviction order

Merchants in Hasankeyf have agreed to gather at the old municipal building this morning to express their opposition to the eviction notice issued by the DSİ (Turkey's State Hydraulic Works). They continue to insist that it is too early to move to the new settlement area, which cannot at present support a level of commercial activity anywhere near that of the current market in historic Hasankeyf.
Hasankeyf market, March 2018

It has been a month since the DSİ issued a tebligat (official notice) ordering the merchants to vacate their present stores. Pressure is mounting. A few Hasankeyf residents have been forced to move from their homes on Dicle Sokak, and these houses have been demolished to make way for the removal of architectural elements.

Demolition of homes along Dicle Sokak (21 March 2018)

To force the merchants out of their current locations before the new settlement area can support commercial activity would potentially violate the universal human right to work (as outlined in our letter to DSİ executives two weeks ago). The universal right to work is guaranteed by Turkey's 1982 Constitution (e.g., IV. Freedom to work and make contracts, Article 48; V. Work-related Provisions, Article 49).

The level of economic injustice perpetrated by the state (according to procedures defined in a Council of State Declaration issued in 2015 and amended in 2016) is completely out of line with international conventions and standards for sustainable economic development:
  • Some Hasankeyf merchants have not been allowed to purchase new commercial property because they reside in surrounding villages and were, therefore, excluded from the compensation and relocation plan set up for Hasankeyf residents.
  • Others report that they have been the denied the right to buy commercial property because they are not married.
  • Some local entrepreneurs who have been operating various businesses in Hasankeyf for years have nonetheless been prevented from buying property due to bureaucratic technicalities (e.g., missing the cut-off date for registering a business, which was several years before the announcement in 2015 of procedures for resettlement).
  • A number of business owners have borrowed money to purchase equipment and/or merchandise and worry that they face severe financial hardship, or ruin, if they are not able to continue doing business in their current location.
An unofficial English translation of the 2015 Council of State Declaration is available here.

We reiterate our hope that the merchants of Hasankeyf will be allowed to conduct business in their current locations at least until the cultural heritage conservation project is nearing completion and the majority of residents of Hasankeyf have moved to the new settlement area.

The route for removal of monuments is under construction (March 2018) 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Open letter to DSI: Forced eviction of Hasankeyf merchants would violate the universal right to work

*** The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive *** Hasankeyf Matters ***
*** Fivas – The Association for International Water Studies ***
*** The Corner House *** Riverwatch ***


RE: Forced eviction of Hasankeyf merchants 
would violate the universal right to work

5 March 2018

Mr. Murat Acu, General Director
State Hydraulic Works (DSİ)

Mr. Ali Naci Kösalı, Region 16 Director
State Hydraulic Works (DSİ)

Mr. Şehmus Erkan Dursun, Hasankeyf Branch Director
State Hydraulic Works (DSİ)

Prof. Dr. Veysel Eroğlu
Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs

Mr. Ahmet Deniz
Governor of Batman

Mr. Faruk Bülent Baygüven
District Governor of Hasankeyf

Dear Mr. Acu:
Dear Mr. Kösalı:
Dear Mr. Dursun:

We write to you to express our concern about the official notice (tebligat) of 22 February ordering merchants to vacate their shops in the historic touristic bazaar of Hasankeyf within two weeks. The notice warns that failure to comply will result in forced eviction. Such action would constitute a flagrant violation of the right to work, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23). [Also published in Turkish]. Case law of the European Court of Human Rights protects aspects of the right to work.

We note that the new settlement area is still under construction and cannot support a level of commercial activity equivalent to that currently enjoyed in the historic touristic bazaar. We also note that Turkey has ratified the International Convention on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and is obligated to respect, protect and fulfill the right to work.

Of particular relevance to the present situation in Hasankeyf is the fact that under Article 6 of the ICESCR, Turkey is committed to safeguarding the right to work by, among other measures, implementing “policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual.”

The right to work “also implies the right not to be unfairly deprived of employment,” (ICESCR General Comment No. 18, paragraph 6). Should the government force the merchants out of their current location now or at any time prior to the installation and operation of facilities/services necessary to support and promote commercial activity in the new settlement area, it will have deprived the merchants, their families and the entire community of Hasankeyf of economic well-being and diminished their sense of dignity. Consequently, these merchants will be “entitled to adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or a guarantee of non-repetition” (General Comment No. 18, ICESCR, paragraph 48).

We refer also to the UN “Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacements.” As this is a situation in which the merchants (and all residents) of Hasankeyf are compelled to relinquish their property through expropriation, the state is obligated to compensate those displaced for various damages they suffer as a result of their involuntary displacement. Such damages include, for example: “lost opportunities, including employment, education and social benefits; material damages and loss of earnings, including loss of earning potential; moral damage; and costs required for legal or expert assistance, medicine and medical services, and psychological and social services” (paragraph 60, emphasis added).

These Guidelines also state, “Cash compensation should under no circumstances replace real compensation in the form of land and common property resources. Where land has been taken, the evicted should be compensated with land commensurate in quality, size and value, or better” (paragraph 60, emphasis added).

Notwithstanding Turkey’s obligation to compensate any and all whose economic well-being is to be diminished (in many cases irreparably) by the Ilısu Dam and Hydroelectric Plant Project, the merchants of Hasankeyf have proposed an interim solution, which would lessen to some extent the damage to their economic, social and cultural interests.

According to this proposal, the merchants would continue to conduct business in the historic market until the people of Hasankeyf have taken up residence in their new homes and the monuments to be salvaged (with the exception of the minaret of the Er-Rızk Mosque) have been relocated to the new settlement area. This would not only enable the touristic market to continue drawing visitors to the town, but it would also allow for a degree of social and economic continuity during the difficult transition to the new settlement area.

In conclusion, we call upon you to exercise the utmost care in planning and executing the relocation of the residents of Hasankeyf to their new homes and workplaces. You, as the state authorities managing the Ilısu Dam project, are responsible for safeguarding the human rights of all those affected by the project. In cases where these rights are violated, you are responsible for ensuring that those who have suffered harm are compensated appropriately.


Hasankeyf Matters
The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive
Fivas – The Association for International Water Studies, Norway
The Corner House, United Kingdom
Riverwatch, Austria

Er-Rızk Mosque, Hasankeyf (built 1409)