Monday, November 24, 2014

In the Hasankeyf market: Arif Ayhan, kilims and kahkabu

Arif Ayhan helps his uncle, Fares Ayhan, straighten the loom
Like many in Hasankeyf, Mehmet Arif Ayhan could easily choose to live elsewhere. For several years he made his living designing and selling jewelry in Marmaris, a resort town on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. “But I always felt something was missing,” he says. “Marmaris is culturally very different from Hasankeyf, and being so far from home took its toll.”

“I felt that Hasankeyf had potential,” says Arif, a Hasankeyf native who returned to the town several years ago to build a business and start a family. “Every type of person comes to Hasankeyf, and I can meet people from all over the world, people from different cultures.”

Arif, a former weaver, in his shop
Today he sells textiles from Western Iran and Eastern Turkey. “Each region – Hakkari, Tabriz, Kirmanshah – has its own history,” says Arif, “and each kilim has a story. I love sharing these stories with people.” He is also eager to help visitors, be they journalists, photographers, film-makers or casual tourists, make the most of their time in Hasankeyf. The only thing he asks in return is for people to tell their friends about his hometown.

“There is no place like Hasankeyf, with its special setting on the banks of the Tigris River. We played in the caves when we were young,” says Arif. He recalls a game called kahkabu, a distinctly Hasankeyf version of “hide and seek,” explaining: “When we were children, one of our favorite games was kahkabu. There are two teams, five people on a team. We would cast lots to decide which team would hide first. We usually played in the evening and hid in the caves toward the Citadel.”

Anyone fancy a game of kahkabu?
Do you ever play kahkabu with guests visiting Hasankeyf? “We’ve not tried it so far,” he says, “but it would be a good way for tourists to learn about Hasankeyf, especially because this game is part of our heritage.”

The tomb of Aslan Baba, on the far side of the Citadel, is
one of several mausolea and cemeteries that encircle the town
Another way to discover the special culture of Hasankeyf is to visit the tombs and cemeteries that encircle the town, such as the tombs of Şeyh Sevinç, Wuqanna and Imam Abdullah. “Each year in the spring (late May or early June) there is a special festival in honor of Imam Abdullah,” Arif says. Hundreds of people come from surrounding towns to remember Imam Abdullah, who as the grandson of Ja’far al-Tayyar and nephew of the Caliph Ali, provides an important link to the first decades of Islam. As Arif says, “It’s not just that Hasankeyf is home for me, but this place has a pull on everyone. You can’t describe it, but when people come, they feel it immediately and they don’t want to leave.”

What is Arif’s favorite pastime in Hasankeyf? “Each day I walk across the bridge at least four times to look at the river and see look at the castle, but the thing I enjoy most is spending time with my son.”

-- John

This is the first in a short series of posts profiling local Hasankeyf business owners.

The view of Hasankeyf from the left bank of the Tigris

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Work slows at the Ilısu Dam site, but Hasankeyf residents have agreed to go

The news from Hasankeyf is as ambiguous as ever. The appropriation (istimlak) process took a big leap forward in September, with most residents agreeing to sell their property to the State. Despite this development, the timeline for evacuating and flooding the town appears to be as elastic as ever. Indeed, construction work at the Ilısu Dam stopped in August and has yet to resume, suggesting that there is still time to advocate for the preservation of archaeological and environmental treasure in a way that is both scientifically sound and economically beneficial.

Here is the current situation of Hasankeyf in a nutshell:

  • In September, most Hasankeyf residents agreed to sell their property to the State and many subsequently applied for housing in the new settlement area
  • Middle school students now attend classes at a new school in the new settlement area. Elementary and high school students still attend classes in Hasankeyf
  • Construction continues on the new bridge and educational and cultural facilities in the new settlement area
  • Hundreds of residential units must be built in the new
    settlement area before residents can vacate their present homes
  • Construction work at the Ilısu Dam stopped in August and has yet to resume

In August the government increased property valuations in Hasankeyf by 35 percent and lowered prices of new homes in the new settlement area by the same amount. Initially residents expressed hope that they would remain unified in rejecting the new offer, but there were soon rumors that some of the town’s larger property owners were one by one cutting private deals with the government.

A list of objections and demands,
published on the Hasankeyfliler
Facebook page (Sept 11, 2014)
A group of Hasankeyf residents staged rallies in the plaza next to the municipal building to raise objections about the liquidation offer. They published a list of demands, headed by a call to preserve Hasankeyf cultural heritage in its present location. Other objections included the lack of adequate emergency health care facilities in Hasankeyf and the need for a committee of independent experts to evaluate buildings constructed by TOKİ (the state-owned construction agency) in the new settlement area.

By the end of September local sources reported that most Hasankeyf residents had agreed to sell their property to the State. The cases of those who refused to accept the revised offer will be referred to the court.

In addition, middle school students are now bused to class in the new settlement area and remain there for the noon meal. (The elementary and high school students continue to attend class in Hasankeyf and go home for the noon meal.) Parents have expressed numerous concerns about the new arrangements, including the potentially negative impact on student morale and performance and reduced safety and security in a construction zone (e.g., street traffic in the new settlement area, which apart from a number of public offices remains unoccupied, is dominated by large trucks and heavy equipment).

While the situation in Hasankeyf is discouraging, questions remain about what will become of the town once the Ilısu Dam project is completed. Local sources have offered different explanations for the work stoppage at the dam, ranging from disagreements between labor and management to threats from the P.K.K. Earlier this summer there were unofficial reports of road blockages and explosions near Dar Geçit along the highway to Ilısu. Sources close to the project have said that since the dam is 90 percent complete, the pause in construction activity is intended to give related construction projects in other locales (e.g., the new bridge at Hasankeyf) time to reach the same level of completion. For now, the ostensible target for completing the Ilısu Dam and new bridge at Hasankeyf is mid-2015.
Ilısu Dam, June 2014 (photo: Toon Bijnens, ICSSI)

When will people have to relinquish their homes and move to the new settlement area? No one can say for sure. One Hasankeyf resident told us, “The situation in the country is very complicated at present and it’s not at all clear when people will have to move. We should know in two to three months.” Another resident speculated, “Everyone will stay in Hasankeyf another two to three years.”

-- Hasankeyf Matters team

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cancellation/Change of Venue of 6th Hasankeyf Ingathering (VI. Hasankeyf Buluşmasının İptali/Mekanın Değiştirilmesi)

[Türkçe aşağıda]

Hasankeyf Matters regrets to announce the cancellation of the 6th Hasankeyf Ingathering (planned for 24-27 October in Hasankeyf) due to the rapidly changing international situation.

We thank everyone for their interest in and dedication to all that Hasankeyf stands for and invite all of our supporters to conduct local Hasankeyf Ingatherings in their own hometowns. Spread the word about the importance of Hasankeyf, discuss and write about your previous experiences there, and find neighbors who are Hasankeyf natives, and ask them to tell their stories, take photographs, and save these oral histories and images for future generations.

Stay tuned for updates on efforts to archive the intangible culture of this magnificent town.

-- HK Matters team

Hızlı değişen ulusalarası durumlar nedeniyle Hasankeyf Matters VI. Hasankeyf buluşama etkinliğinin (24-27 Ekim 2014) iptalini ilan ediyoruz.

Hasankeyf dostluğuna ve çabalara devam ettiğiniz için herkese teşekkür ediyoruz. Şimdiden hepinizi farklı farklı memletlerinizde Hasankeyf Buluşma etkinlikleri gerçekleştirmeye davet ediyoruz. Hasankeyf'i yaşayayıp tanıtalım. Komşularınızın arasındaki Hasankeyflileri arayınız ve hikayelerini söylemelerini rica ediniz. Hasankeyf'te ve diğer şehirlerde eş zamanda Hasankeyf hakkında sözlü tarihleri kaydedebiliriz, fotoğraf çekeriz ve gelecek kuşaklar için bu görüntüleri ve sözleri muhafız ederiz.

Bu muhteşem şehrin kültürel mirasın belgelennmesi hakkında haberleri almak için bu siteyi takıp ediniz.

-- HK Matters takımı

Thursday, October 2, 2014

6th Hasankeyf Ingathering, 24-27 October 2014

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Cancellation/change of venue of 6th Hasankeyf Ingathering (click link for details)

[Türkçe için önceki yazıya bakınız]

Explore and document Hasankeyf’s past and present, October 24-27, 2014. We invite artists, photographers, journalists, film-makers, craftspeople, musicians, archivists, folklorists, botanists, oral historians and other interested parties to help us build an archive – paintings, sketches, films, photographs, sound recordings, stories, and images reflecting Hasankeyf’s archaeological remains, nature, and intangible culture, giving all stakeholders the opportunity to see the town’s living heritage as a vital component of sustainable economic development in the region.

Please register by sending us an email at (include name, telephone, email, profession, creative interests and expertise with digital media).

Daily activities: October 24-47, 2014
  • Record stories and oral histories: Record your encounters and conversations with shepherds, weavers, tailors, fishermen, gardeners, and others to capture examples of the community’s unique culture and history
  • Contribute to the visual archive: Ample time will be set aside at different times each day, allowing for variety in lighting, to sketch, paint, photograph, record, and pursue other creative activities in a favorite spot
  • Share your expertise: In daily photography workshops, participants will help young photographers with essential techniques, such as lighting, composition, storage and backup
  • Use the Hasankeyf Walking Guide: As you explore, ponder the puzzle of urban technology and town design – gardens, water canals cut into the rock, homes and palaces, public works, urban technology linking a medieval city with its natural environment
  • Bıttım (Pistacia terebinthus), Rasçem orchards, Hasankeyf
  • Relax and reflect: Evenings are for sharing ideas and work, playing music, watching documentaries, and brainstorming

Is there still hope for Hasankeyf?
The schedule for completing the Ilısu Dam has been extended into 2015. However, it remains unclear when – or how high – the waters of the new Ilısu Reservoir will be allowed to rise. In effect, no one knows how much time Hasankeyf has left, because there is no transparent plan for evacuating residents and salvaging select archaeological monuments. We firmly believe that as long as there is life in Hasankeyf, there is hope that a win-win solution can be found that’s good for both Hasankeyf and the Turkish economy.

Is Hasankeyf worth the struggle?
Absolutely, now more than ever.

Hasankeyf, with its magnificent fragments of Seljuk-era monuments, offers an unparalleled venue for Turks, Arabs, Kurds, and others to recall past glories, compare their narratives of the past, and explore the mosaic of cultures, dynasties, and religions. Hasankeyf, one of the first places ever chosen for organized human settlement 12,000 years ago, is still a city where civilizations meet for peace and reconciliation – not to mention tranquility, reflection, and dreams.

Practical information:
Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines fly to Diyarbakır, Mardin, and Batman. Public transportation to Hasankeyf takes 90 minutes (from Batman) and 2-3 hours (from Diyarbakır and Mardin).

Lodging is available at Hasankeyf Hasbahçe. Accommodations include en suite rooms (double, triple or dorm) at the special rate of 60 TL per person (including breakfast) and space in the garden for campers (35 TL per person, including showers and breakfast). Contact Firat Argun, owner, directly at +90.530.929.1527 to make your reservation.

Dress according to local climate and tastes – both men and women should avoid shorts and sleeveless shirts/tank tops, opting instead for comfortable and loose-fitting trousers and shirt tops. Weather conditions can change quickly in late-October. Bring a sweater, jacket (for cold nights), and a raincoat to be on the safe side. Good walking/trekking shoes are an absolute must!

For more information, please contact:
Hasankeyf Matters
English, French, Turkish & Arabic

Hasankeyf Hasbahçe
Turkish & Arabic
Firat Argun, owner

6. Hasankeyf’te Buluşma Etkinliği, 24-27 Ekim 2014

ÖNEMLİ BİR GÜNCELLEŞTİRME: VI. Hasankeyf Buluşmasının iptali/mekanın değiştirilmesi (detaylar için tiklayınız)

[Click here for English]

Hasankeyf’i yaşayalım! Birlikte Hasankeyf’in kültürel mirasını keşfedip kayda geçireceğiz, 24-27 Ekim 2014.

Ressamları, fotoğrafçıları, gazetecileri, belgeselcileri, el sanatçılarını, etnologları, botanik uzmanlarını, sözlü tarihçileri ve ilgilenen herkesi davet ediyoruz. Resimler, eskizler, filmler, fotoğraflar, ses kayıtları, ve hikayeler toplayarak Hasankeyf’in kültürel arşivini geliştirmeye devam edeceğiz. Çünkü bölgenin ekonomik büyümesi için Hasankeyf’in arkeolojik eserlerine, doğasına ve maddi olmayan kültürüne iyice bakarak ve yöresel gelenekler dikkate alınarak sürdürülebilir bir strateji geliştirilebilir.

Katılmak için, lütfen bir mail atınız:
(Mail içinde adınızı, telefon numaranızı, mail adresinizi, mesleğinizi, ve dijital medya ile sanatta uzmanlığınızı/ilgilerinizi yazmanız rica edilir)

Dört gün boyunca (24-27 Ekim) Hasankeyf’te buluşalım diyen katılımcılar için çeşitli faaliyetler düzenlenecek:

  • Şehrin tarihi yapılarını (Zeynel Bey Türbesi, Koç Camii) ve doğal güzelliklerini gezeceğiz.
  • Amca oğulları, teyze kızları, arkadaşlarımız ve misafirlerimizle sohbet edeceğiz, sözlü tarihleri kaydedeceğiz.
  • Çocukların açık hava “atölye”sinde fotoğrafçılık hakkında (ışık, kompozisyon, hafıza ve yedek) ders sağlamak için imkanı olacak.
  • Çeşitli araçlar kullanarak (kara kalem ve renkli resim, fotoğraf, video, ses kaydı vd.) şehrin semtlerini gezip gözlemler yapacağız, arkeolojik kalıntıları göreceğiz, Ra’s Tıbbah tepesinden şehre bakacağız, sokaklarda, bahçelerde, çarşıda karşımıza çıkan insan manzaralarını resimleyeceğiz.
  • Kısaca, Hasankeyf’in geleceğini hayalimizde canlandıracağız.

Hasankeyf için neden çaba göstermeliyiz?
Hasankeyf’in şu günlerde her zamankinden daha çok yardımımıza ihtiyacı var !
İnsanların ilk yerleşik hayat denemelerini yaptıkları zamanlardan beri Hasankeyf ve civarı uygarlığı besleyen bir yer oldu ve bugün de medeniyetlerin buluşma noktası olarak biliniyor. Özellikle, incelenmeyi ve yorumlanmayı bekleyen Selçuklu döneminden kalma çok sayıda eser var.

Kültür ve turizm açısından bakarsak, Hasankeyf eşsiz bir yer ve önemli olanaklar sunuyor. Şehrin çeşitli mimari geleneklere ait yapılarını, sokaklarını, camilerini, kiliselerini gören Arap, Kürt, Türk ve diğer medeniyetlerden insanlar, atalarının neler başarmış olduklarını görerek gurur duyacaklar.

Bu miras nasıl korunabilir?
Bir zamanlar Hasankeyf’in hakimleri olmuş Asurilerin, Perslerin, Romalıların, Hamdanilerin, Artukoğulları’nın, Eyyubi’lerin, Akkoyunlular’ın, Osmanlılar’ın vs. torunları olarak, medeniyetlerin buluşma noktası olan bu kentte ortak kültürel mirasımızı ve paylaştığımız doğal kaynakları birlikte değerlendirmeliyiz.

Hasankeyf bizlere miras kaldı. Düşünce, inanç ve felsefe olarak ne kadar farklı olursak olalım, ortak mirasımıza ve tarihimize vefamızı gösterelim. Gelin dostlar, Hasankeyf’te buluşalım.

Ulaşım: THY ve Pegasus’un Batman’a, Diyarbakır’a ve Mardin’e uçak seferleri var. Hasankeyf’e toplu taşıma ile ulaşım akşama kadar var. Hasankeyf’e yolculuk, Batman’dan 1,5 saat, Diyarbakır’dan ve Mardin’den 2,5-3,0 saat sürüyor.

Konaklama: Hasankeyf Hasbahçe Pansiyon’da konaklama kişi başı 60 TL (kahvaltı dahil). Bahçede çadırda kalmak isterseniz, kişi başı 35 TL (duş ve kahvaltı dahil). Pansiyonun sahibi Fırat Argun (tel.: +90(530)9291527).

Kıyafet önerileri: Ekim ayında hava sık sık değişebilir. Gündüz hava ılımlı olabilir, ancak geceleri genelde soğuk oluyor. Onun için kazak ve mont tavsiye edilir. Yanınıza yağmurluk almanız da iyi olur. Bölgenin geleneklerine uymak bakımından, hem erkekler hem de kadınlar için uzun kollu gömlek ve uzun pantolon tavsiye edilir.

Daha fazla bilgi için:
Hasankeyf Matters
(İngilizce, Türkçe, Arapça, Fransızca)

Hasankeyf Hasbahçe
Türkçe, Arapça, Kürtçe konuşulur.
Sahibi: Firat Argun

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guest post: Ways of seeing Hasankeyf

"The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe”
--John Berger, Ways of Seeing

When I was a small child, there were some abstract paintings dotted around my parents’ bedroom; brightly coloured acrylics on old bits of scrap board. My father was working long shifts in the shipyards at that time and had to concentrate on providing for our family so never developed his painting beyond this amateur level. However, his attempts to express himself influenced my own creativity and helped to develop a love of visual imagery that still permeates my everyday life.

Encouraging children to develop art and their "creative eye" is a gift that lasts a lifetime. To get pleasure from the simple things in life, such as a pattern made by peeling paint on a door or a sun-kissed leaf, is indeed a gift.

In May this year I was part of a group of artists at the Hasankeyf Ingathering. One main element of this event was to provide art workshops for the local children. Our art studio was a very simple space: a circular discussion area in the garden of the Belediye, which was kindly provided by the mayor.

We decided to make art "stations" so that the children could try a range of different activities. We came armed with rolls of paper, crayons, sequins, scraps of fabric and toilet-roll holders. The children were waiting impatiently as we arrived to set up, running to help us unpack our bags and prepare for the workshops. At first our young artists were so excited that they ran around trying to decide what to do first. Eventually, they settled down to begin work on their mini-projects.

The children were a mixture of ages and abilities so we had tried to keep our ideas simple and accessible for all. Some children made puppets, others produced a colourful Hasankeyf sign.

A small group of children were involved in basic stamping activities and others collaboratively painted a view of their hometown. We adults mingled and helped where needed to ensure that all the children were occupied although most worked independently and were happily engaged in their activity.

The children helped us to attached string to the poles enclosing the "studio" which became our hanging space. Once they realised the string’s use the children were keen to display their artworks as soon as they finished them. At the end of the workshops the children were walking around looking at what they had produced and pointing their work out to friends. Their artwork remained hanging outside throughout the weekend and the children added more pieces to their gallery the following day.

It could be argued that these kinds of community projects do not produce long-term effects and that it is unlikely that any of these children will get the chance to fully develop any artistic bents they may have. I beg to differ on both these points as I believe the world is starting to look different to these children and the world needs more people with vision.

-- Suzanne

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Weekends in the art garden

Over the past two years, Hasankeyf children and volunteers from Hasankeyf Matters have met intermittently for art workshops. These open-air sessions began in the fall of 2012, when Sulyon, an environmentalist performing-arts group from Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, incorporated them into their performance during the 2nd Hasankeyf Ingathering. Thanks to the children’s enthusiasm, the workshops have continued, taking on a life of their own.

Each young artist (or team of artists) starts with a piece of paper, a brush and some color – if pencils or crayons are at hand they may sketch an idea before putting color to paper.

Recurring themes have been houses (with or without parents), the river and bridge in Hasankeyf, mountains, mosques, Zeynel Bey Tomb, helicopters, and even the initials “GS” for Galatasaray. The children mix colors and try new tools – sponges, paper towels, cloth rags, pine cones.

Sometimes the painting evolves and advances with an impressive degree of experimentation, only then to gradually disappear as the paper becomes saturated and begins to dissolve into pulp. What harm can there be in using color with a sense of abandon?

Participation usually varies from 10 to 40 eager young artists, and it can take a few minutes of coaxing to get everyone to spread out where each “team” has room to paint (or make puppets, or prints or whatever new activities the visiting art “coaches” introduce).

There are often so many participants that artists work in teams, sharing brushes, pencils and palettes. When the organizers are too slow to refill palettes, Hasankeyf’s emerging leaders step in to help, which works very well until everyone decides to become a helper.

The workshops take place on weekend afternoons in the garden behind the Hasankeyf Mayor’s office, where they are free of the fixed time and space constraints of a typical classroom. Children understand immediately that future workshops depend on the availability of supplies and an invitation to return to the garden, so they are careful to clean brushes, palettes and paint spills before leaving. Water, soap suds, scrub brushes and towels provide a whole new source of excitement and experimentation.

Time and energy permitting, some of the artists share the story that goes along with their painting. At a recent workshop, an adult commented, “There’s a nice structure in this painting.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the 8-year-old artist explained, “This is a picture of the world. It has this long road. And this is Hasankeyf; it’s hard to see but it’s right here.”

"And this is Hasankeyf; it's hard to see but it's right here."
-- John