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.”

-- HK Matters team


  1. Thanks for the rather depressing report, team. Where there's still life, there's hope, however. We'll keep hoping Hasankeyf will be saved.

  2. Indeed, Senior Dogs, always looking for the new openings amidst it all.

  3. Construction continues on the new bridge and educational and cultural facilities in the new settlement area.We will, continue to do our best to improve our efforts on all fronts to better our standards to serve our clients and the society. مولدات كهرباء