Saturday, June 27, 2015

Earliest temple found in Hasankeyf; yet another reason for @UNESCO to list #Hasankeyf

Archaeologists digging at the Neolithic mound in Hasankeyf have uncovered remains of a temple thought to be older than Göbeklitepe, according to an announcement this week by Batman University Chancellor Abdüsselam Uluçam, who is responsible for archaeological excavations at Hasankeyf.

Coming just as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee begins its annual meeting in Bonn, Germany, this news is a timely reminder to the international community of conservationists that Hasankeyf needs your support, now more than ever. Please join the Save the Tigris Campaign in urging Turkey, Iraq, and UNESCO to take the necessary steps to ensure that Hasankeyf and the Arab Marshlands of Iraq are preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations.

Hasankeyf holds the remains of the earliest organized human settlement ever found. Digging at Hasankeyf under the supervision of Professor Yutuka Miyake of the University of Tsukuba, Japanese archaeologists have unearthed tantalizing clues about the diet, burial practices, and physical habitat of the people who lived here 11,500 years ago.

Recent excavations also shed light on the economic activity and standards of living in Hasankeyf during the Seljuk era. The discovery in 2012 of a water purification system dating to the 12th century attests to the sophistication of water management in Seljuk lands. An extensive network of natural streams and artificial canals, sections of which still function today, carried water to every part of Hasankeyf, including the citadel mount.
Remains of a 12th century water purification system,
excavated in Hasankeyf in 2012

Local gardeners, who rely both on wells and water diverted from surface streams, claim that a large underground network of cisterns and channels form the bigger part of the medieval water system, suggesting the need for continued archaeological work.

In addition, the remains of a ceramics factory on the edge of Hasankeyf’s Sâlihiyya garden district represent a rare example of medieval manufacturing, according to Oluş Arık, former head of excavations at Hasankeyf. Consisting of kilns, cooling pools, and areas for painting and storage, this complex constitutes the most important kiln remains in Anatolia and suggests that ceramics production in Hasankeyf was comparable to that of İznik. (See Arık, 201; Çeken, 22)
Hasankeyf ceramic kilns are thought to have
rivaled İznik in production capacity

The ongoing archaeological work at Hasankeyf demonstrates clearly and emphatically that Hasankeyf provides an unparalleled field in which to study the evolution of human habitat and deserves UNESCO listing as World Heritage to ensure that this research continues.

--HK Matters team

Arık, M. Oluş. Hasankeyf: Üç Dünyanın Buluştuğu Kent [Hasankeyf: The City Where Three Worlds Meet]. Ankara: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınlar, 2003.

Çeken, Muharrem. “Materials, Techniques and Kilns used in the Production of Seljuk and Beylik Period Glazed Tiles.” In Tiles Treasures of Anatolian Soil: Tiles of the Seljuk and Beylik Periods. Ed. Rüçhan Arık and Oluş Arık. Istanbul: Kale Group Cultural Productions, 2008. pp. 13-23

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A legal challenge to Hasankeyf resettlement guidelines

Last month the Turkish Government issued a declaration (published 5 May 2015 in the Resmi Gazete) defining eligibility requirements for housing in the future settlement area of Hasankeyf. (An English translation is available here.)

Rather than ensuring “the equal enjoyment of the right to adequate housing by all” as required by international law, this declaration appears to exclude certain segments of the Hasankeyf population and prevent many residents from taking advantage of measures intended to ease the transfer to the new settlement area.

Specifically, only households that enjoy the status of “family” as defined by Article 17 of Housing Law 5543 are eligible to purchase residential units with state-supported financing. In addition, business owners who do not have adequate documentation of business operations, including commercial tax payments, will not be eligible to purchase commercial space in the new Market Center. One Hasankeyf business owner estimated that these criteria would disqualify 60 percent of Hasankeyf business owners.

The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive (HYG) argues that the declaration is inconsistent with constitutional guarantees of equal rights and has filed a lawsuit in Batman to have the declaration annulled. Local and regional activists speaking at an HYG press meeting in Hasankeyf last Sunday described the Ilısu Dam project, which is expected to flood Hasankeyf and require residents to relocate, as the continuation of government policies that have forced Kurdish villagers from their homes and driven them into poverty. 

The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive announced a lawsuit
against the recently published guidelines for
property purchases in the new settlement area.

While construction of residential units in the new settlement area has resumed after a pause of nearly two years, there is no clear timeline for the purchase and occupation of the new housing. Once qualifying families take possession of their new homes, they will be required to vacate their present homes within 30 days.

Construction of residential units in the new settlement area
has recently resumed.
The declaration also states that the cost of new units in multi-story buildings will range from 54,000 to 116,000 TL (not including taxes and the value of land). As one Hasankeyf resident noted, the typical Hasankeyf family accepted 70,000 TL from the government for a 2-bedroom home with garden and must go into debt to buy a home in an apartment building. “Where is the land, where are the gardens?” he asked.

It’s a valid question. The United Nations’ “Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement” categorically reject the use of cash compensation to “replace real compensation in the form of land and common property resources.” Paragraph 60 of the UN Guidelines also state, “Where land has been taken, the evicted should be compensated with land commensurate in quality, size and value, or better.”

The topography, soil and town plan of the new settlement area
(foreground) cannot match the verdant gardens of Hasankeyf's
current residential neighborhood (visible in the distance). 

-- HK Matters team