Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hasankeyf in the context of European cultural heritage

Europa Nostra Vice President Costa Carras and
actor Ioannis Simonides lead a literary tour of the
Athenian Agora
Hasankeyf Matters was honored to participate in the 50th Anniversary Congress of Europa Nostra in Athens, June 13-17, 2013. The program, which spared no opportunity to celebrate Athens as the birthplace of democracy, included case study presentations, business meetings, awards ceremony and offline networking sessions. A voluntary civil society organization formed in 1963 through the cooperation of national heritage groups, Europa Nostra has grown to become the pre-eminent “Voice of Cultural Heritage in Europe.”

Hasankeyf lies between the Raman Mountains (background)
and the Tur Abdin Plateau
Photo: Hasankeyf Matters
In her remarks to the congress, Androulla Vassiliou, EU Commissioner for Culture, Education, Multilingualism and Youth, stressed the importance of investing in heritage: “The rich tangible and intangible heritage we share in Europe is a vital part of our identity. It plays a central role in promoting local growth and fosters social inclusion." These words summarize perfectly the potential of Hasankeyf as a showcase of universal human heritage with special emphasis on Islamic civilization in the era of the Seljuk Turks.

Indeed, Europa Nostra has recognized the value of Hasankeyf to European history by naming it one of 14 sites shortlisted for the “7 Most Endangered” program launched this year. We hope that Europa Nostra and its members will continue to participate in the ongoing conversation around heritage preservation in Hasankeyf.

Saint George Armenian Church, Mardin
Photo: A. Alkan
Europa Nostra is helping to draw worldwide attention to other sites in Southeastern Turkey by including The Saint George Armenian Church in Mardin in the “7 Most Endangered” program. As noted by Europa Nostra - Turkey, this church, founded in the 4th c., represents an important aspect of Mardin’s cultural mosaic. We applaud Europa Nostra’s selection, as it increases the renown of Mardin (only 120 km from Hasankeyf) and opens opportunities for cooperation as the Government of Turkey promotes Mardin as candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Fountain of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 
winner of a Europa Nostra conservation award, 2013 
Photo: José Enrique Marin Zarza
Given the importance of Islamic civilization in spurring the development of art, philosophy and scientific enquiry in Europe, we feel strongly that there is an opportunity and a need to seek out the areas where Christianity, Islam and Judaism overlap and to promote dialogue around these shared elements of heritage.

Hasankeyf is perfectly suited for this kind of dialogue – with its extraordinary display of diverse forms of human habitat extending from the 10th mm. BCE to the 21st c. CE. As one of the most compelling sites in Turkey, Hasankeyf represents Islamic civilization side by side with Syriac Christianity and brings people together – Turkish and Greek, Kurdish and Arab, Assyrian and Persian – in a dialogue that is at once historically aware and forward-looking.
The minarets of the Rizk Mosque and Sultan Suleyman
Mosque keep modern Hasankeyf anchored in a
medieval urban plan.  Photo: Hasankeyf Matters

We hope to see more organizations both in Turkey and abroad support the conservation of the universal heritage of Hasankeyf with its extraordinary insight into the urban archaeology in the middle period of Islamic civilization.

-- Hasankeyf Matters team