The city of Diyarbakır had dreams, once
Cities, I believe, also have dreams like humans. In numerous travels to Edirne from the most western part of the country, to the southeastern cities Gaziantep, Mardin and Diyarbakır, I have come across these dreams.
Diyarbakır, which has been the venue of armed clashes since July, where a war climate reigns, is at the top of cities whose dreams have been shattered like glass castles.
The Diyarbakır Business Council, made up of 22 institutions including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Diyarbakır Trade Bourse and its Chamber of Merchants and Craftsmen, has recently presented a report to Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Development Minister Cevdet Yılmaz in Ankara.
What would a business report mean, you might ask, in an environment where innocent children are dying one by one, where daily life has halted because of curfews, where 300,000 people had to leave their homes in three months?
In fact, as a writer friend from Diyarbakır told me, the effort of the Diyarbakır Business Council is to pour a cup of water on the region’s fire.
The report said in the Sur district of the city, more than 360 businesses have closed down, commercial activities have almost come to a full stop and the already high unemployment has peaked.
The tourism sector, which had big expectations last July after Diyarbakır’s ancient city walls and Hevsel Gardens were listed on UNESCO’s World Culture Heritage List, has also halted.
Including the five-star hotels in Diyarbakır, more than 20 hotels in the Sur district have closed. The report said the occupancy rates of these hotels during the resolution process were 80 percent to 85 percent; this figure now is zero.
I remember well what kind of an accommodation problem Diyarbakır had when I first visited the city at the end of 1990s. As far as I remember, there was only the old Kervansaray Hotel in Sur. Now, the renovated Kervansaray is a five-star hotel.
In an another visit to the city much before the resolution process, Chamber of Trade and Industry head Kutbettin Arzu told me that Diyarbakır had started silk production again, a reminder that the city once competed with Bursa in silk production.
He explained how they were making use of the EU funds to revive silk cocoon production, which measured 300 tons in the 1960s. He said they were aiming to revive tourism by restoring the city walls of Diyarbakır.
Arzu was later a deputy for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Agriculture Minister for three months in the election government. We talked on the phone after they presented their report in Ankara.
“So many dreams the city of Diyarbakır had,” I told him.