Monday, November 23, 2015

How to help: Appeal for the permanent protection of Hasankeyf

We urge our supporters to write letters explaining what Hasankeyf means to you and the entire world. Whether you live in Turkey or not, please adapt our letter template (click for English, Turkish and French versions) and contact your political leaders and policy-makers about the need to protect Hasankeyf, in the name of peace and sustainability.

Want to do more to contribute towards our goal of raising the profile of Hasankeyf both nationally and internationally? We've got some other ways to help too!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An open letter to G-20 delegates

As the G-20 Leaders Summit prepares to meet this weekend in Antalya, Turkey, we urge summit delegates to support the robust conservation and permanent protection of Hasankeyf, a 12,000-year-old settlement in south-eastern Turkey. With its unparalleled combination of universally valuable natural and cultural heritage, Hasankeyf provides an excellent opportunity to emphasize two messages central to the mission of the G-20 and the United Nations: peace and sustainability.

The town’s long history, strategic location within a region known as the cradle of civilizations, and unique collection of medieval architecture make Hasankeyf an invaluable nexus for different peoples to explore shared histories.

Surrounded by vast, unspoiled hinterlands, Hasankeyf also offers an extraordinary chance to demonstrate that rigorous heritage preservation is key to sustainable economic growth over the long term.

Arguably the best-preserved city from the Seljuk era, Hasankeyf displays even today extensive examples of that period’s urban infrastructure, including roads, water distribution networks and manufacturing facilities. Its skyline, dominated by the pylons of a 12th-century bridge and the minarets of two 15th-century mosques, serve as a reminder that Hasankeyf is also the product of numerous cultures and civilizations, most recently the Turkmen Artukids and the Kurdish Ayyubids.

The site’s biodiversity is remarkable as well, including rare and endangered species such as the leopard barbel fish, the pied kingfisher, and a wild variety of chickpea.

According to an independent report by the Turkish NGO Doğa Derneği, Hasankeyf meets nine out of ten UNESCO criteria. But it has not been designated as a World Heritage Site. And time is running out.

The immeasurable cultural heritage of Hasankeyf and the surrounding Tigris Valley are under serious threat by a controversial mega-dam now nearing completion at Ilısu, a village 60 kilometres downstream from Hasankeyf.

We respectfully urge you to do all that you can to open a dialogue with leading conservationists, government decision-makers, and other stake-holders in Turkey about the best way to ensure the permanent protection and sustainable conservation of Hasankeyf’s universal cultural and natural heritage.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

For peace and sustainability

Voting is underway in today’s historic parliamentary elections, with high hopes for peace and reconciliation for all citizens of Turkey.

No matter the outcome, Hasankeyf will remain under threat of flooding until a compromise solution is agreed by all parties concerned – national and regional policy makers, local residents, etc.

Construction of the Ilısu Dam has halted temporarily, opening a window of hope for a brighter future for Hasankeyf. However, in the event that the Ilısu reservoir does not flood Hasankeyf, uncontrolled property development and commercial activity could severely and irreparably damage the cultural and natural heritage of the site.

It is crucial, therefore, that friends of Hasankeyf and leading heritage advocates work together on three strategic efforts:
  1. Write letters and network with politicians, activists, social entrepreneurs and business executives to keep Hasankeyf top of mind during the countdown to the 40th meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Istanbul in July 2016.
  2. Build a “dialogue around heritage” where stakeholders from across the political spectrum can share ideas for strengthening peace through environmental sustainability.
  3. Put forward detailed models for managing Hasankeyf‘s cultural and natural heritage in an environmentally, culturally and economically sustainable manner.
The seeds of dialogue are already in the ground, and a variety of organizations (governmental and non-governmental) are working to encourage all to take a second look at Hasankeyf.

In 2011, state-owned Turkish Airlines (THY) mounted a publicity campaign to increase awareness about Hasankeyf as an international tourist destination.

Daily THY flights to Batman, gateway to Hasankeyf  
Since 2013, the District Governor of Hasankeyf has sponsored a number of improvements, including the construction of a telegenic open-air amphitheater (with Hasankeyf’s legendary skyline in the background). Working in cooperation with DİKA (The Tigris Development Agency), the District Governor has also begun to develop a network of ecological villages emphasizing local garden produce, culinary traditions and handicrafts as the basis for tourism.

The new amphitheater offers one of the best views of Hasankeyf

Architectural lighting in Hasankeyf was upgraded in 2014

At the regional level, volunteers in southeast Turkey, particularly Batman and Diyarbakir, are taking new approaches to promoting the cause of Hasankeyf. Working in cooperation with the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive and a network of local ecological councils, the Hasankeyf Solidarity Group has organized numerous activities this fall, featuring panel discussions, bicycling and kite-flying as well as press-conferences calling for “peace for humanity and nature.”

The Hasankeyf Solidarity Group offers new ways of seeing Hasankeyf

By continuing to build a truly open dialogue around heritage, people of varying perspectives and philosophies can come together to share different visions of past, present and future in Hasankeyf.

--HK Matters team