Thursday, March 22, 2018

Hasankeyf merchants to protest DSİ's eviction order

Merchants in Hasankeyf have agreed to gather at the old municipal building this morning to express their opposition to the eviction notice issued by the DSİ (Turkey's State Hydraulic Works). They continue to insist that it is too early to move to the new settlement area, which cannot at present support a level of commercial activity anywhere near that of the current market in historic Hasankeyf.
Hasankeyf market, March 2018

It has been a month since the DSİ issued a tebligat (official notice) ordering the merchants to vacate their present stores. Pressure is mounting. A few Hasankeyf residents have been forced to move from their homes on Dicle Sokak, and these houses have been demolished to make way for the removal of architectural elements.

Demolition of homes along Dicle Sokak (21 March 2018)

To force the merchants out of their current locations before the new settlement area can support commercial activity would potentially violate the universal human right to work (as outlined in our letter to DSİ executives two weeks ago). The universal right to work is guaranteed by Turkey's 1982 Constitution (e.g., IV. Freedom to work and make contracts, Article 48; V. Work-related Provisions, Article 49).

The level of economic injustice perpetrated by the state (according to procedures defined in a Council of State Declaration issued in 2015 and amended in 2016) is completely out of line with international conventions and standards for sustainable economic development:
  • Some Hasankeyf merchants have not been allowed to purchase new commercial property because they reside in surrounding villages and were, therefore, excluded from the compensation and relocation plan set up for Hasankeyf residents.
  • Others report that they have been the denied the right to buy commercial property because they are not married.
  • Some local entrepreneurs who have been operating various businesses in Hasankeyf for years have nonetheless been prevented from buying property due to bureaucratic technicalities (e.g., missing the cut-off date for registering a business, which was several years before the announcement in 2015 of procedures for resettlement).
  • A number of business owners have borrowed money to purchase equipment and/or merchandise and worry that they face severe financial hardship, or ruin, if they are not able to continue doing business in their current location.
An unofficial English translation of the 2015 Council of State Declaration is available here.

We reiterate our hope that the merchants of Hasankeyf will be allowed to conduct business in their current locations at least until the cultural heritage conservation project is nearing completion and the majority of residents of Hasankeyf have moved to the new settlement area.

The route for removal of monuments is under construction (March 2018) 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Open letter to DSI: Forced eviction of Hasankeyf merchants would violate the universal right to work

*** The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive *** Hasankeyf Matters ***
*** Fivas – The Association for International Water Studies ***
*** The Corner House *** Riverwatch ***


RE: Forced eviction of Hasankeyf merchants 
would violate the universal right to work

5 March 2018

Mr. Murat Acu, General Director
State Hydraulic Works (DSİ)

Mr. Ali Naci Kösalı, Region 16 Director
State Hydraulic Works (DSİ)

Mr. Şehmus Erkan Dursun, Hasankeyf Branch Director
State Hydraulic Works (DSİ)

Prof. Dr. Veysel Eroğlu
Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs

Mr. Ahmet Deniz
Governor of Batman

Mr. Faruk Bülent Baygüven
District Governor of Hasankeyf

Dear Mr. Acu:
Dear Mr. Kösalı:
Dear Mr. Dursun:

We write to you to express our concern about the official notice (tebligat) of 22 February ordering merchants to vacate their shops in the historic touristic bazaar of Hasankeyf within two weeks. The notice warns that failure to comply will result in forced eviction. Such action would constitute a flagrant violation of the right to work, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23). [Also published in Turkish]. Case law of the European Court of Human Rights protects aspects of the right to work.

We note that the new settlement area is still under construction and cannot support a level of commercial activity equivalent to that currently enjoyed in the historic touristic bazaar. We also note that Turkey has ratified the International Convention on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and is obligated to respect, protect and fulfill the right to work.

Of particular relevance to the present situation in Hasankeyf is the fact that under Article 6 of the ICESCR, Turkey is committed to safeguarding the right to work by, among other measures, implementing “policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment under conditions safeguarding fundamental political and economic freedoms to the individual.”

The right to work “also implies the right not to be unfairly deprived of employment,” (ICESCR General Comment No. 18, paragraph 6). Should the government force the merchants out of their current location now or at any time prior to the installation and operation of facilities/services necessary to support and promote commercial activity in the new settlement area, it will have deprived the merchants, their families and the entire community of Hasankeyf of economic well-being and diminished their sense of dignity. Consequently, these merchants will be “entitled to adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or a guarantee of non-repetition” (General Comment No. 18, ICESCR, paragraph 48).

We refer also to the UN “Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacements.” As this is a situation in which the merchants (and all residents) of Hasankeyf are compelled to relinquish their property through expropriation, the state is obligated to compensate those displaced for various damages they suffer as a result of their involuntary displacement. Such damages include, for example: “lost opportunities, including employment, education and social benefits; material damages and loss of earnings, including loss of earning potential; moral damage; and costs required for legal or expert assistance, medicine and medical services, and psychological and social services” (paragraph 60, emphasis added).

These Guidelines also state, “Cash compensation should under no circumstances replace real compensation in the form of land and common property resources. Where land has been taken, the evicted should be compensated with land commensurate in quality, size and value, or better” (paragraph 60, emphasis added).

Notwithstanding Turkey’s obligation to compensate any and all whose economic well-being is to be diminished (in many cases irreparably) by the Ilısu Dam and Hydroelectric Plant Project, the merchants of Hasankeyf have proposed an interim solution, which would lessen to some extent the damage to their economic, social and cultural interests.

According to this proposal, the merchants would continue to conduct business in the historic market until the people of Hasankeyf have taken up residence in their new homes and the monuments to be salvaged (with the exception of the minaret of the Er-Rızk Mosque) have been relocated to the new settlement area. This would not only enable the touristic market to continue drawing visitors to the town, but it would also allow for a degree of social and economic continuity during the difficult transition to the new settlement area.

In conclusion, we call upon you to exercise the utmost care in planning and executing the relocation of the residents of Hasankeyf to their new homes and workplaces. You, as the state authorities managing the Ilısu Dam project, are responsible for safeguarding the human rights of all those affected by the project. In cases where these rights are violated, you are responsible for ensuring that those who have suffered harm are compensated appropriately.


Hasankeyf Matters
The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive
Fivas – The Association for International Water Studies, Norway
The Corner House, United Kingdom
Riverwatch, Austria

Er-Rızk Mosque, Hasankeyf (built 1409)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Eviction threat looms over merchants in Hasankeyf’s historic bazaar

Every weekend, a steady, if modest stream of tourists still visits Hasankeyf, despite the accelerating destruction in and around the town. They buy souvenirs in the historic bazaar and enjoy a cup of tea or a meal. But local residents say the government has given merchants along the “touristic bazaar” an ultimatum: vacate their shops within two weeks, or be forcibly evicted.

Hasankeyf's historic market (Fall 2017)

Previous announcements set deadlines of 1 October 2017 and 17 January 2018 for closing the bazaar ahead of the town’s planned move to a new settlement area outside of the flooding zone. But last week’s notification (dated 22 February) is said to be stronger, warning that merchants could be evicted by force if they do not comply. Shopkeepers are understandably hesitant to abandon their workplaces, especially as peak season approaches; some are saying, “We’re not going.”

The new Hasankeyf marketplace (Feb 2018)

Many merchants have been allocated spaces for their shops in the new settlement area, but there are no customers to serve in the new marketplace, which sits near the tourism school, within view of the new museum. Neither facility has opened. In fact, the new town is still under construction, and it will be years before major tourism attractions such as the museum and an “archaeopark” (where a handful of architectural elements taken from historic Hasankeyf will be displayed) are ready for visitors. The merchants know that their incomes will drop sharply as soon as they close their current shops.

New housing is still under construction (Feb 2018)

The ostensible reason for evicting the merchants at this early date is to demolish the market and clear a path for the removal of the minaret of the Rizk Mosque, which stands at the western end of the market street. Several local residents have noted, however, that the state has not expropriated all properties along the market street, as some owners have rejected the government’s cash offers. The path cannot be fully cleared until these cases are resolved.

Some shop owners argue further that the minaret should not be moved until after the other monuments to be salvaged have been relocated to the new archaeological park and the Hasankeyf residents settled in their new homes. This would enable the bazaar to continue drawing visitors to the town, allowing for a degree of social and economic continuity during the difficult transition to the new settlement area.

Unfortunately, local residents report that recent conversations with government officials have been especially tense, and they fear that the market could be closed forcibly early this month. We hope that the authorities will find a way for Hasankeyf merchants to keep earning a living and providing for their families.