Countdown starts for Diyarbakır’s World Heritage site bid
DİYARBAKIR – Anadolu Agency
AA PhotosSite preparations have finished in Turkey’s eastern province of Diyarbakır, whose ancient sites may soon receive world heritage status. The 5,700-meter long and 12-meter high historical walls, along with the 700-hectare Hevsel Gardens, which are a like an open-air museum and symbol of the city, are waiting for UNESCO’s World Heritage status decision.
The process for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) candidacy started in 2000 and has sped up in the past three years. The checkpoints on the path to UNESCO World Heritage status have been reached one by one; books and brochures have been published in various languages and documentaries have been made featuring the UNESCO process.
Students and teachers at schools have also been educated about the city’s cultural heritage and UNESCO process.
The 39th committee session of UNESCO started on June 28 in the western German city of Bonn and will continue until July 8.
Chief of the Diyarbakır Citadel and the Walls Department Nevin Soyukaya said after Diyarbakır’s candidacy had been recognized by UNESCO, officials from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) had examined the structure and decided to reinforce its infrastructure.
She said all large projects had been canceled to prevent the destruction of the heritage field and added, “The 3 [hydroelectric powerplant] projects were canceled. The Dicle Valley project was also suspended. The cancelation of the decision that Hevsel and Dicle Valley are not agricultural areas is also in question. These are very serious steps taken for the protection of the field during the UNESCO process.”
Soyukaya said that a scientific council on the walls had been formed by the ministry, while the committee halted restorations to prevent new mistakes.
“Diyarbakır is a known, popular city abroad. Thanks to its special location, it is the pearl of the Mesopotamia and the city of ancient cities. This brings positive results to us.”
The world heritage candidacies will be evaluated during the 39th council in Bonn and the final decision will be made between July 3 and 5, she said.
“We hope that we will have good news for Diyarbakır. Then, we need to carry out works to protect the city according to international standards. Even the preparation process has positive impacts on the city. During the UNESCO process, we have worked with NGOs, city volunteers and residents,” she added.
Major economic benefits
At least 36 natural and cultural sites, including a disputed bid from Japan, are vying for the U.N. cultural body’s prestigious distinction. Inclusion on its vaunted world heritage list, which currently boasts 1,007 sites in 161 countries, can bring major economic benefits, as a World Heritage site is eligible for financial assistance for preservation. The status is also a powerful tourist draw.
The Paris-based institution has seen applications soar “as the notion of heritage has evolved,” said Alessandro Balsamo, head of the selection committee.
“We’ve gone from an iconic, monumental idea of heritage toward a more open definition,” he said, noting that the UNESCO list has also started to include “cultural landscapes” such as Italy’s Piedmont wine country.
At Bonn, the committee will also revise its List of World Heritage in Danger, which today stands at 46.