Ancient town of Hasankeyf one step closer to destruction after top court’s decision

Ancient town of Hasankeyf one step closer to destruction after top court’s decision

Oya Armutçu – ANKARA
Ancient town of Hasankeyf one step closer to destruction after top court’s decision

The 12,000-year-old Hasankeyf settlement in Turkey’s southeast is on the verge of complete destruction, after a Constitutional Court ruling gave the final go-ahead for a controversial dam project that is set to leave the ancient town under water.

The top court ruled that the issue was at the “discretion of the state,” as the construction of the Ilısu Dam and hydroelectric power plant project (HES) were matters of “public welfare” and “outside the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction.”

Sitting on the banks of Tigris River, the town of Hasankeyf in the southeastern province of Batman is home to a rich archaeological heritage spanning nine civilizations, including the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

The town, which was declared a natural conservation area in 1981, meets nine of the total 10 criteria to be deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.

But soon it will be consumed by the waters of the Ilısu Dam, which officials say will provide electricity and irrigation to the region.

The dam will raise water levels of the Tigris River by around 60 meters, submerging the ancient town and villages around it, including immovable historical artifacts.

The issue was brought to the Constitutional Court by “Hasankeyf’i Yaşatma Girişimi” (the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive), a movement founded in 2006 to campaign against the Ilısu dam project. But with the top court’s recent ruling giving the final go-ahead for the construction of the dam, the ancient town will soon disappear.

Hasankeyf, Ilısu Dam, Constitutional Court