Monday, May 16, 2005


Renewed dam project threatens historic site


The Art Newspaper
By Lucian Harris
May 14, 2005

LONDON. Plans for the construction of a massive dam on the Tigris River in South Eastern Turkey, which threatens to submerge Hasankeyf, a site of great historic importance, are again underway, despite the apparent success of an international campaign to halt the project in 2002 and numerous promises by the Turkish government to save the town. The renewal of the project appears to flaunt many of the recommendations attached to Turkey’s proposed accession to the European Union.

The Ilisu Dam, part of the Greater Anatolia Project, a series of hydroelectric plants and dams, is all the more controversial because of its location in the predominantly Kurdish south-east of Turkey. Evidence has recently emerged that a new consortium has been formed for the construction of the dam. It includes the Austrian firm VA Tech, currently the subject of a takeover bid by Siemens.

Hasankeyf was an important crossroads between East and West, occupied by nine major civilisations from the Assyrians to the Ottomans.

If the dam goes ahead the whole town will be submerged with the exception of the citadel, perched on top of the cliffs. Among the losses will be the Sultan Suleiman Mosque, the minaret of which is one of the most outstanding examples of early 15th-century Ayyubid architecture; the cylindrical tomb of Zeynel Bey, a rare example of Central Asian style architecture in Anatolia; and the tomb of the holy Imam Abdullah, grandson of Cafer-i Tayyar, uncle of the prophet Mohammed, a shrine visited by about 30,000 Shia pilgrims each year.

The archaeological salvage work, often limited to one month each year, was started in 1998 under the direction of the Centre for Research and Assessment of the Historic Environment (TAÇDAM), supported by various university archaeological teams and international research institutes.

Recent statements by the Turkish authorities on the subject of Hasankeyf and the Ilisu Dam have been contradictory. In 2003, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declared that Hasankeyf would not be submerged, but developed as a tourist destination. More recently, Culture and Tourism Minister Atilla Koç named Hasankeyf as one of a number of sites worthy of restoration and new tourism initiatives.

However, a 2005 report by Maggie Ronayne of the National University of Ireland, Galway and the Kurdish Human Rights Project found that government bodies such as the State Hydraulic Works now freely admit that the dam project is again underway. This was confirmed to The Art Newspaper by a TAÇDAM research assistant who said that official salvage operations had yet to recommence because of “bureaucratic disputes” with the Turkish Government, but that there were plans to dismantle and relocate some of the town’s more important buildings and to restore them as an open-air museum on an island in the reservoir.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?