UNESCO vows ‘commitment’ to protect Diyarbakır’s Sur after Livaneli criticism

UNESCO vows ‘commitment’ to protect Diyarbakır’s Sur after Livaneli criticism

UNESCO vows ‘commitment’ to protect Diyarbakır’s Sur after Livaneli criticism

DHA photo

The United Nations’ cultural agency has reiterated its commitment to – protecting a heritage site in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, after famous singer Zülfü Livaneli, Turkey’s goodwill ambassador to UNESCO, resigned on May 26, accusing it of “hypocrisy” in ignoring the site’s destruction amid clashes between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces. 

With Roman-era basalt walls encircling historic houses, churches, synagogues and mosques, the city of Diyarbakır’s Sur district was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2015. 

“I can assure you that UNESCO is deeply committed to safeguarding this unique site, as all other inscribed World Heritage properties,” the director of the agency’s Division of Public Information, Vincent Defourny, said in a letter to the Hürriyet Daily News regarding Livaneli’s criticisms of the agency’s role in the protection of Sur. 

“UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre has sought detailed information on the state of conservation from the government of Turkey,” Defourny said, adding that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would shortly share a full report “on the incurred damages and measures to safeguard properties.”

Accordingly, the agency will examine the report both via its established procedures and will also discuss the matter at the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee in Istanbul, set to be held between July 10 and 20.

Sur has been the site of some of the fiercest fighting and has been under military lockdown since December. 

Large tracts of Sur on the banks of the Tigris river, once home to 24,000 mostly lower-income residents who have all left, have been bulldozed. Historic monuments bear battle scars. 

The authorities have promised to rebuild Sur to reflect its historical importance, accusing the PKK of storing weapons and harboring fighters in Sur. 

“As the demolition of history is taking place in Sur, hypocrisy dominated the [Istanbul] World Humanitarian Summit,” Livaneli, a novelist, filmmaker, composer and singer said, while tendering his resignation from United Nations cultural agency on May 26, accusing the government of violating human rights.