Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Facts on the ground in Hasankeyf

Anyone interested in ecological and cultural conservation in Hasankeyf has celebrated the Council of State decision halting work on the Ilısu Dam. Doğa Derneği has indicated, however, that work at the project site is ongoing, contrary to the court order. This is troubling.

Just as troubling, if for slightly different reasons, is the situation in Hasankeyf (60 km upstream from the Ilısu Dam site)

A last visit to the Citadel (20 August 2012)
Incremental developments are adding up to big changes:

  • The Citadel remains closed. This is important not only because it attracts busloads of tourists who spend money in the local market but also because it is the ancestral home to local residents. Since being forced to leave the Citadel 50 years ago, Hasankeyf residents have regularly returned there to be close to the memory of their parents and grandparents. But these visits came to an end after Ramadan last year. 

    New Hasankeyf (August 2012)
  • The New Town sits half-finished at the base of the Raman Mountains across the river from Hasankeyf. Its street lights shine uselessly each night. Meanwhile, the magnificent monuments of bygone centuries are invisible in the darkness. Another banal example of the politics of memory and forgetting. 

Earthen foundation for new bridge at Hasankeyf (Jan 2013)
  • Trucks work day and night piling up rock and dirt for the supports of the new bridge and four-lane divided highway. One can only speculate what damage this road will have on the visual landscape and natural environment. 

Imam Abdullah Tomb (November 2012)
  • The Imam Abdullah Tomb -- one of the monuments of greatest spiritual significance to the people of Hasankeyf (comparable to the meaning of Eyüp Sultan for Istanbul) -- has been enclosed within a rock "vault," ostensibly to protect the tomb from the coming flood. 

Western entrance to Hasankeyf (27 January 2013)
Western entrance to Hasankeyf (April 2011)
  • Construction crews have set up prefab housing at the western entrance to Hasankeyf, obscuring the sublime view of the Zeynel Bey Tomb rising majestically in front of the Citadel, Lower City and Artukid Bridge. 

The placement of the workers' dormitories is an unfortunate choice, and one resident explained its effect this way:

Zeynel Bey Tomb (27 January 2013)
"Whenever we spend time away, our love for Hasankeyf increases and we long to return. Now, unfortunately, we approach Hasankeyf with this sense of longing only to see our love afflicted by this horrible scene. It's not right."

A long-time observer of Hasankeyf affairs added: "The rapid rise of the new town last spring had already done enough damage to this beautiful landscape. Each new development takes its toll on the morale of people here."

Facts on the ground.

Where are the Rainbow Chasers?