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.

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