HASANKEYF, Turkey — “All we want to do is to maintain our heritage and our history, and for that we are called terrorists!” a resident of Hasankeyf told Al-Monitor. In this historic southeastern town, which has been at the top of Turkey's agenda and the site of explosions throughout September, few people are willing to speak on the record for fear of being branded as terrorists.
Hasankeyf, a town in the southeastern province of Batman, dates back 12,000 years. Situated on the banks of the Tigris, the area has been home to many of the civilizations of Mesopotamia. Today, it is at the end of its existence. The old town, with its many visible artifacts and more still awaiting excavation, will be submerged under the Turkish government’s pet project, the Ilisu Dam. When completed, it will be Turkey’s largest hydroelectric dam and the crown jewel of the Southeastern Anatolia Project. The waters of the Tigris will rise by 60 meters (197 feet) in places, leaving most of the historical area under water and forcing about 80,000 people to leave ancestral homes and move to the “new town” — some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away — against their will.