Skip to main content

Hasankeyf: Civilization Condemned to Death

The countdown has started for unique, 12,000-year-old historical monuments in the Tigris Valley to be submerged by the waters of a dam promising an annual revenue of 300 million Turkish lira.

Would a country sacrifice more than 550 historical monuments from various Mesopotamian civilizations to a dam? It appears Turkey is determined to do just that. It is no joke. The Ilisu Dam project — under discussion since 1958, approved in 1982 and accelerated by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2006 — will swallow Hasankeyf, a major juncture along the Silk Road.

A town now condemned to death, Hasankeyf has seen Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Artuqids, Ayyubids, Aq Qoyunlus and Ottomans come and go. The sites destined to bid farewell to the world include a 12th-century double-deck stone bridge with only four feet surviving, the El Rizk Mosque, the Mardinike Palace ruins, the Zeynel Bey Mausoleum, the Syriac Quarter, the Sultan Suleyman Mosque, the Koc Mosque, the Inn and the Arasta bazaar, a number of shops and kilns, and countless cave dwellings. The Batman Municipality organized the Hasankeyf Culture and Arts Festival for Oct. 18–20 to draw attention to the looming disaster.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.