Diyarbakır never loses hope

Diyarbakır never loses hope

It has been some time since I was last in Diyarbakır. The city has developed and changed in a surprising manner. New malls, new neighborhoods, new houses and new cafes… 

The Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED), which has nearly 40,000-member companies, was our host in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, which they chose as the location for their 39th council meeting. 

Our first stop was a restaurant called Big Chef’s. This chain has many restaurants in the country and abroad; its venue at Diyarbakır’s A Plus Bazaar had a certain New York feel. 

Diyarbakır’s Sur district was a scene of intense clashes that occurred two years ago, with six neighborhoods totally destroyed, and 23,000 people had to leave it as it became an unfamiliar place. 

Our host at Big Chef’s was the Diyarbakır Industrialists and Businesspeople Association head Burç Baysal. In his opening speech of the council, he said the people of Diyarbakır lost their assets in the past two years; they had to endure difficult living conditions but they did not lose hope; they did not quit. Baysal also said Diyarbakır had to look ahead and talk business. 

Why was Diyarbakır chosen as the venue of the 39th council, which was participated by more than 300 businesspeople? 

TÜRKONFED head Tarkan Kadooğlu, who was born in the southeastern province of Şırnak’s Cizre district and knows the problems of the region very well, said, “Normalization of the region will only come true by giving a chance to political channels. Contribution to Diyarbakır’s economic and social life will change the climate in the region.” 

“Economic development launched in the region, starting from Diyarbakır, can also be the locomotive of our country’s development move,” he added. 

Diyarbakır is included in the government’s “attraction center” program. It is a city that has benefited, to a restricted extent, from hopes created by the EU accession talks and the fast growth the country’s economy before 2010. Its export figure in 2013 was $280 million. 

According to businesspeople from Diyarbakır, economic decline started with “ISIL’s [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] Sinjar attack.” However, as Baysal said, the city has not given up and there are quite a number of activities that have been happening recently. 

The Diyarbakır Agriculture Fair organized in April was swarmed by local and foreign visitors from the Middle East. 

Before TÜRKONFED, the Turkish Travel Agencies Union (TÜRSAB) came to the city for a two-day major event, rekindling hopes for tourism. TÜRSAB’s Diyarbakır representative Mehmet Akyıl said, “Pre-2015 was our peak, with 500,000 tourists a year. The historical venues at Suriçi, restaurants and cafes were not adequate for the travel tours.” 

New hotels such as the Hilton Garden, Radisson Blu and Novotel have been opened, and the Divan Hotel will be opened too. When “normalization” occurs, tourism will peak again, he believes. 

After TÜRSAB’s visit, Diyabakır was re-added to the Southeastern Anatolia tours. 

Before clashes erupted in Diyarbakır, the city walls and the Hevsel gardens right underneath were included to UNESCO’s world heritage sites. Unfortunately, Diyarbakır was not able to announce to the world that it was included in such a prestigious list to attract tourists. 

Nevertheless, a Diyarbakır local who has not lost hope may become the locomotive of the change of climate and development in the region.