The stunning, ancient town of Hasankeyf stands on the banks of the Tigris river in north Kurdistan (the part of Kurdistan within the borders of Turkey). Hasankeyf is 12,000 years old but it is set to vanish forever under a 121 square mile artificial lake when the Ilısu dam is completed. The dam will displace up to 78,000 people, the majority of whom are of Kurdish origin. Another 30,000 nomadic people will also be directly affected. 199 villages will be completely or partially flooded.
The residents of Hasankeyf and surrounding villages don’t know when the waters will come. Some say that they could be flooded by March 2016, while others believe that the project will be completed within three years. The dam is currently 90% complete.
Tragically, the same region already has a devastating recent history. In the 1990s, whole villages were either burnt down by Turkish security forces or forcibly expelled. Thousands of people were killed or disappeared. By the mid-1990s, more than 3,000 villages had been wiped from the map. The pretext for these actions was to clear the PKK guerillas out of the villages but many say the main aim was to expel Kurdish people from their homeland and destroy Kurdish culture and traditions.
An abandoned village close to Hasankeyf, now a ghost village after the forced depopulations of villages in the 90s
There are now roughly 3,000 residents living in Hasankeyf. Many people have already left because of the uncertain future of the area and because there are now barely any employment opportunities. Once a thriving tourist destination, visitors flocked to the town to visit the ancient ruins and to marvel at Hasankeyf’s 5,000 caves, which, until recently, were inhabited for thousands of years.
When Corporate Watch travelled to Hasankeyf earlier this year, residents told us that there used to be many restaurants on the river, catering to tourists. Most of the money that people earned came from these restaurants, or from their souvenir shops and small hotels. During 2010, when the main work on the construction of the dam began, someone was killed by a rock fall while walking in the valley in Hasankeyf. The government seized the opportunity to use this as a pretext to permanently shut much of the ancient monuments, ruins and caves to tourists. This ensured that the locals could no longer make a living and made this precious area effectively disappear from public sight and mind.
Disused restauraunts by the Tigris river, closed since the government restricted tourists from visiting much of ancient Hasankeyf (Corporate Watch 2015)
The Ilısu dam is part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), consisting of 22 dams, which the Turkish government is rolling out in the Kurdish region.
Back in 2006, Turkish prime minister (and now president) Tayyip Erdoğan said of the Ilısu dam:
“The step that we are taking today demonstrates that the south-east is no longer neglected…This dam will bring big gains to the local people.”
“To date more than half of the GAP has been implemented, but nothing has been improved for the regional people, rather they have had to bear the social and ecological costs while the industrial centres in west Turkey and big companies have the profit.”
Officially, the Ilısu dam will provide hydro-electric power, but campaigners say there are more underhand reasons for the construction of the dam. One is to force Kurdish people out of rural areas and to assimilate them in cities. Kurdish people will be forced from the countryside to the cities in order to look for work. Turkey has attempted to assimilate Kurdish people for decades, trying to wipe out their cultures and their languages. According to Ercan from the Initiative To Keep Hasankeyf Alive: “Assimilation is much easier to achieve within cities, where people speak less Kurdish and connections to traditional Kurdish culture are weaker.”
Another reason for the construction of the dam is to restrict the movement and effectiveness of Kurdish PKK guerillas. The building of new military forts on the mountaintops all around the dam also ensures that the Turkish military has more control over the area.
The dam will also put pressure on Iraq and allow the Turkish government to use water as a political weapon. Back in 1992, Suleyman Demirel, then prime minister of Turkey, stated:
“Neither Syria nor Iraq can lay claim to Turkey’s rivers any more than Ankara could claim their oil. This is a matter of sovereignty. We have a right to do anything we like. The water resources are Turkey’s; the oil resources are theirs. We don’t say we share their oil resources, and they cannot share our water resources.”
The dam will also cut the flow of the Tigris river to Iraq and damage Iraqi agriculture. Ercan told us:
“Almost all of Iraq cities’ drinking water comes from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They don’t use ground water. It would be possible for Turkey to cut the water or release too much water. They could even cut the flow of water for a few months in the summer time. Turkey wants to be a regional power and this dam is a tool to put pressure on Iraq. The Turkish government already puts pressure on Syria with dams on the Euphrates. The Atatürk dam, which sits on the Euphrates is three times bigger than the Ilısu dam.”
In 1990, Turkey cut off the flow of the Tigris for nine days to fill the Atatürk dam reservoir, sparking protests from Syria and Iraq.
One of Hasankeyf’s historic monuments
Compensation and the construction of New Hasankeyf and New Ilısu
The Turkish government says that it is compensating those who will lose their land and houses due to the building of the dam. However, almost half of the affected villagers, and all nomadic people, have no land or land titles. They will not get any compensation.
Everyone we spoke to in Hasankeyf told us they were being offered far too little money. Additionally, only those with families can apply to buy a home in New Hasankeyf. Those who are single are not entitled to a house.
Murat, a resident of Hasankeyf explained: “I have eight brothers. The money must be divided between everyone. So if I take 10,000 lira, what can I do? The new homes cost us 150,000 lira. How can I buy this?” (see our interview with Murat below).
Women will be more adversely affected than men by the compensation arrangements, as they are less likely to own property or have rights to the houses that they live in (see our interview with Hasankeyf resident Asya Okay).
An ugly concrete-block town named New Hasankeyf is being built on the mountainside, overlooking the beautiful, ancient town of the same name. Many of the buildings have been completed and there are already police guarding the police station. Some residents told us that they will move to New Hasankeyf but others said they can’t afford to buy a flat in the new town. With their land and livelihood underwater and with nowhere to live, they will move to large Kurdish cities such as Amed (Diyarbakır in Turkish) to look for work. The cities are already overcrowded due to the forced eviction of Kurdish villages in the 1990s. Those who move face an uncertain future, away from their families and the structures that would have supported them. Many of those migrating will have different skills to those that are required for a job in the city.
The village of New Ilısu, overlooking the dam itself, was completed in 2010. There are roughly 50 families already living there. Ercan tells us that when they moved, each family received roughly 30,000 lira per house, and another 60,000 lira if they had land. Each new property in New Illsu cost 80,000 lira. “What kind of new income will the people have?”, he asked. “The government has told the residents that tourists will come to the dam site, and that they can make a living from watersports and fishing. Some people believe this, some don’t.”
Hasankeyf’s Famous Minaret, most of which will be submerged if the dam is completed
There has been much resistance against the Ilısu dam from both activists and PKK guerillas. The project was halted in 2002 and 2009 because of this.
The activist campaign, Initiative To Keep Hasankeyf Alive (ITKHA), was formed in 2006. People from all different spheres of society joined the initiative. Campaigners informed locals of their rights, surveys were carried out, and demonstrations took place, including a big protest camp in October 2010.
The ITKHA’s main targets were European companies involved in the construction of the dam – Andritz, an Austrian company, Zublin, from Germany, and Alstom, a Swiss company. On top of this, three European banks – Bank of Austria, DEKA bank in Germany and Societe Generale in France – were due to finance the dam. Each company had to apply to their country for an export credit guarantee. The ITKHA aimed their campaign at the governments responsible for granting these guarantees. An independent committee of experts showed that the conditions of the licenses were not being fulfilled, so in July 2009 the governments withdrew approval. This was a huge success for the campaign. The German and Swiss companies, Züblin and Alstom, resigned from the project. The Austrian company, Andritz, remained and took over their shares.
After this, the government organised financing for the project from three Turkish banks – Halk Bank, a public bank, and Akbank and Garanti Bank, both private banks. Campaigners called upon the public to close their accounts with these banks, and campaigned to local authorities and unions not to hold their employees’ accounts with them. According to Ercan, “It was the first time in Turkey that banks were confronted with a campaign. But the government put a lot of pressure on these banks to provide the loans for the dam.”
The ITKHA and the Chamber of Landscape Architects of Turkey started a trial challenging the dam construction and were successful. As a result, in January 2013, the administrative court of Diyarbakır made the decision to stop the work on the dam, due to the failure to conduct proper environmental impact assessments (EIAs). Three months later the Turkish government changed the law for EIAs and the dam project continued. Now, if a project was approved before 1993 it does not need an EIA.
In 2014, PKK guerillas kidnapped two heads of companies subcontracted to supply the workers constructing the dam. All workers stopped dam construction and resigned from the project. The kidnapped men also promised not to work on the dam in exchange for their release. Because of calls from the PKK, many local people stopped working on the dam. The Government had to do a new tender and the workers started to come from further afield.
In January and February 2015, the PKK attacked the construction machines, and in March they exploded a bomb and destroyed a pipe. These attacks stopped during the run-up to the election because the PKK didn’t want to cause tension while the pro-Kurdish HDP party was running a campaign.
In June 2015, dam construction workers set fire to offices and destroyed heavy equipment and vehicles belonging to Malamira, the company which employs the workers on the dam (see our interview with Lokman Erdoğan here).
Companies currently involved in the Ilısu and Cizre dams
The Ilısu dam project is overseen by the Turkish General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI).
Turkish company Nurol is heading the consortium of companies making a profit out of the destruction of Kurdish livelihoods and culture. The other important Turkish company is Cengiz Inşaat, which is currently involved in the construction of two other dams in North Kurdistan.
Austrian company Andritz Hydro, headquartered in Graz, is supplying the electromechanical equipment for the Ilısu dam in a contract worth 340 million Euros. Andritz briefly suspended its plans to supply equipment after international government funding (through export credit guarantees) stopped in 2009 due to pressure from the international campaign. But the company announced its renewed commitment to the project in June 2010. It had taken over the shares of the other European companies, Alstom and Züblin.
Andritz is a multinational company with a global reach that is also causing environmental destruction through its involvement in hydro dam projects in Peru, Brazil and Laos. On top of that, Andritz Group is involved in the production of pulp and paper and has been criticised for causing deforestation and the destruction of native people’s heritage in Tasmania through its involvement in the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill project.
Malamira, a Turkish company headquartered in Ankara, is a subcontractor organising the workers for the construction site. It took over from the companies that pulled out after attacks on the dam by the PKK during 2014. They are contracted by Cengiz Inşaat, a Turkish company which is currently involved in the construction of two other dams in North Kurdistan.
Finance is coming from Turkish banks Halkbank, AKBank and Garanti Bank.
Zorlu Energy, part of Zorlu Holdings headquartered in Istanbul, has just won the tender for the Cizre Dam.
Local campaign group ITKHA is calling for action against Andritz on ‘Global Hasankeyf Day on 20 September 2015. Andritz’s UK addresses are:
20 September 2015 is Global Hasankeyf Action Day. This is the last day of a three day resistance camp. Hundreds of affected people and activists will gather in order to resist the Ilısu Project. Thousands of people will march on 20 September. Activists around the world are urged to organise public actions. ITKHA says:
“The demands should target mainly the Turkish government, the Austrian company Andritz – the most crucial company in the Ilısu consortium – or the Iraqi government, which is silent about the upcoming drying out of its country.”
Picture Caption: A view of Hasankeyf (Creative Commons)
The campaign to list Hasankeyf and the Iraqi marshes as a UNESCO world heritage site
Campaigners believe that Hasankeyf fulfills nine out of ten of the criteria to be listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The Iraqi marshlands will also be destroyed by the Ilısu dam, eradicating thousands of years of culture. Locals will be left with absolutely no source of income.
According to a local resident of the Chibayish marshes in Iraq, “The dams are going to create a desert and lead to forced migration of the people from their homeland to other areas.”
Success in the campaign to list Hasankeyf and the Iraqi marshes a world heritage site could help to stop the completion of the dam.
For more info on the Iraqi campaign to save the marshes, click here.
Map of the dam affected region (from the the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive)
The Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP)
The story doesn’t end with the Ilısu dam. Turkey is one of the world’s most active dam-building countries, with 635 large dams within its borders. According to The Munzur Association to Protect Natural Life, there are 1,487 completed or projected dam and hydro-electric projects within Turkey’s borders. The number of completed and planned dams and hydro-electric dams in North Kurdistan is 290.
The Southeastern Anatolia Project, (shortened to GAP in Turkish) consists of the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and will destroy the rivers’ ecosystems. The first dam was completed in 1974 and many others are also now operational. According to journalist Joris Leverink:
“The finished GAP project will reduce water flows to Syria by 40 percent, and to Iraq by a shocking 80 percent. This in combination with severe droughts which hit the region over the past few years; the ongoing conflict between the Iraqi state and its allies and the militants of the Islamic State group; and the millions of (internally) displaced people in the region has the potential for an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe that can cause a serious food security problem which could disrupt the region for years to come.”
Downstream from the Ilısu dam, the Cizre dam, which hasn’t yet been constructed, can only function in conjunction with the completion of the Ilısu dam. It will capture the water flowing from the Ilısu dam and divert it for irrigation of agricultural land. Both of these dams are part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project.
In 2013, Corporate Watch visited Halfeti, a district which already succumbed to Hasankeyf’s fate in the 1990s, when it was flooded after the completion of the Birecik dam (also part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project) on the Euphrates river. Around 6,500 (mostly Kurdish) villagers had to be relocated as their houses disappeared. Tour boats now plough the waters of the dam, taking a few intrigued tourists to see the drowned village of Savaşan Köyü. Cameras click as the tourists take photos of the old mosque, which now sits deep underwater, its minaret poking out of the water.
The mosque of the village of Savaşan Köyü now sits deep under the waters of the Birecik dam
A study carried out by Özer and Taluğ in 2008, based on 44 villages affected by the construction of the Birecik dam, found that 82.5 percent of the population was worse off after resettlement. Housing conditions deteriorated and unemployment became a significant problem. In a 2013 thesis, Cigdem Kurt found that the houses in new Halfeti (built by TOKI, the Housing Development Association) were of terrible quality:
“Issues such as broken stairs, leaking roofs and poor quality windows and doors meant that re-settlers had to undertake building work before moving in.”
Before the area was flooded by the Birecik dam, communities in Halfeti district mostly made their living from their small-scale pistachio orchards and fishing in the Euphrates. Despite being an irrigation dam, local farmers have not benefited. Farmland was lost to the waters, and there are no options to buy new farmland in the area.
The whole GAP project has massive implications for landless people, who will receive no compensation Those who are landless and whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on herding animals are extremely vulnerable to poverty. Women, in particular, take responsibility for keeping the animals, and the production of milk and eggs is a source of income for families. The new towns, such as New Halfeti or New Ilısu, have rules that do not allow the keeping of livestock, denying them this source of income. Additionally, those who are landless and who work on land owned by others receive no compensation, and lose their livelihood.
Dams on the border of South Kurdistan
In June 2015 Corporate Watch travelled on the road through the North Kurdish mountains bordering South Kurdistan (the part of Kurdistan within Iraq’s borders). Turkish military bases keep watch over the area, and soldiers stop (mostly Kurdish) travellers at frequent checkpoints. “Why are you here?” we were asked many times, while our passports were being checked.
A Turkish militiary base overlooks the road, close to the border with South Kurdistan (Corporate Watch, 2015)
There are 11 dams planned by Turkey along this border, several of which are already under construction. The dams are officially being built to provide power and to store water. However, the flooding of the valleys and the creation of lakes is also a political move. The dams block Kurdish guerillas’ movements, and effectively separate North Kurdistan from South Kurdistan.
Some of Hasankeyf’s 5000 caves
Interviews with people affected by the Ilısu dam:
Interview with Murat, a Hasankeyf Resident and part of the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive
Murat: I was born in Hasankeyf. My father and my grandfather were born by the castle. I have a shop here. In 2014 there was an election and I was the mayoral candidate for the HDP.
Hasankeyf is important for the AKP [the ruling political party] – a very strategic area. They did tricks and the AKP stole the votes for the municipal election. Now the belediye [council] is AKP. If we had won this municipality, maybe we could have made some problems for the dam.
One of the tricks they did was with the election boxes. There were seven election boxes. Six had been filled, but [the completion of] one box was delayed ‘til dark. When they saw that they would lose the vote, they turned off electricity and it went dark and they counted the vote by hand.
Of course the population of Hasankeyf doesn’t want the dam. Before the AKP government was [the only ruling] party. Now they must make a coalition. The MHP is not good – it’s a fascist party. If the CHP makes a coalition with them this is better for us. This area is very important for the PKK. And Hasankeyf is very historical. People have lived here for 12,000 years.
Do you think that the dam will be cancelled?
I think so, why not? The government have put 10 billion dollars into Ilısu dam. But Hasankeyf is important for all the world. Maybe they can change the project. The dam wall is 526 metres. Perhaps they can change the project so that the water is lower and Hasankeyf isn’t flooded. Maybe we can save Hasankeyf.
Three or four years ago a university professor wrote that if you make four small dams it would be better than this Ilısu dam but the government said they would not change the project.
Hasankeyf is half Arabic, half Kurdish. We can speak Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish here. For us we are the same.
Why do you think they are building the dam?
The government says that the dam is for the people. But I think it’s for three reasons. Firstly, for power. They will have power over Iraq’s water. They will have power over Iraq. Secondly, the PKK has routes for guerillas in this area. The Ilısu dam stops this. Thirdly, water for drinking. In maybe 35 years time, water will be more important than petrol. They will sell it like they sell petrol from the pipeline from Azerbaijan. Turkey will have about 1,500 dams – of course, not [all] as big as the Ilısu dam. Every river has [similar] projects on it.
Will everyone go to new Hasankeyf?
I think when people have to move not everyone will go to New Hasankeyf. Maybe half will go. The others will go to Istanbul, Bursa, different cities. The government gives money for a home [as compensation], but just a little. People will go to Batman or Istanbul for a job and money.
If there are no jobs, people will move. Four years ago Hasankeyf castle was open. Tourists came. There were restaurants on the water opposite the castle. Now everything is closed and the economy for Hasankeyf depended on this.
We do not want to go to New Hasankeyf. I have been offered a little money for my house. My home is my father’s. He has died. We will get 90,000 lira maximum. 550 lira per square metre. This money is not for one person. In the last 30 years there has been a ban from making new homes here. So every home has five, six, seven, eight siblings. I have eight brothers. The money must be divided between everyone. So if I take 10,000 lira, what can I do? The new homes cost us 150,000 lira. How can I buy this? There are no jobs.
Here there are no jobs – how will they give us new jobs in New Hasankeyf? For this shop they would give roughly $2,500 (7,000 lira). This is very, very little. A new computer would cost $1,000. I rent this shop. This money will go to the owner.
The government said that for people who lived in Hasankeyf before 1 April 2013, you can buy a new home. But not if you are not married, they won’t give you a home. The government won’t give the houses for free. It’s a very, very capitalist government. I have a shop. I pay tax to the government. But I am not married so I can’t buy a home.
Where will you live?
I was born in Hasankeyf. Of course I will go to New Hasankeyf but if they don’t give me a home I don’t know where I will live. Maybe I will go to live near the castle.
Maybe in one year the dam will be finished. The water will come slowly and then in two or three years Hasankeyf will be underwater.
Hasankeyf is important for all the world. Why doesn’t UNESCO or the EU recognize this? Why don’t people tell Turkey this? Mesopotamia is very important. The first culture was here. This river is really important. Christian, Armenian, Ottoman, Kurdish, Syrian, Egyptian and maybe Jewish people have history here.
Can people in Europe help to save Hasankeyf?
Of course you can help to save Hasankeyf. Maybe you can help pressure your parliament. Maybe you can make protests. Maybe we can make some activities and after one month we will meet in Hasankeyf and do activities for saving Hasankeyf. If there is good organisation we can get 10,000 people here for a concert. You could make a protest at the same date and time in London. If you are near a UNESCO office you can make a protest there.
The government’s power has lessened so if we make more protests it may be more effective than before. We can increase and improve protests as the government is weaker. People don’t want the Ilısu dam.
If the government wants energy, this area sees the sun for eight to nine months per year. We can use renewable energy – solar energy. The dam is a big loss for nature, history, people and animals. If Hasankeyf has to move, the compensation is very little.
Do you think the companies have a responsibility for what is happening?
Cengiz [the contractor for the dam construction] is the same as the AKP. This is the responsibility of the government. The company does everything for money, but the government must think about everything. The government has all the responsibility.
Interview with Lokman Erdoğan from the thermal springs village of Düğünyordu (Taroni)
What do you think about the dam?
We do not want the dam. First of all they kill all nature – this is the most important thing. My family have been here for nearly a thousand years.
There was a big problem yesterday. Three people from the village are in hospital. The army came with machine guns. The problem came from a dispute with the [Malamira] company about how many hours we should work. If we work more than eight hours the company must pay us more, but they don’t. We said to the company that if we work more than eight hours, you have to pay us extra, but they refused.
Yesterday at 12pm workers spoke with the boss of Malamira. They said that they can only work eight hours because it’s Ramadan and its very hot.
After that, we talked with the union. The union representatives came to Dargecit. Malamira sent an SMS to the union to say they shouldn’t come. Malamira also talked to the army and said: “don’t let the union come here, because the union says that the workers must be paid extra for more than eight hours work. It would be a problem for the company.”
When the union arrived in Dargecit, the owner of company said by text message: “it’s forbidden for you to come”. When workers learned this, they protested with slogans. They said: “why don’t you let the union in?”. After that, the owner shot at people from the village. Then people from this village and another village started to break everything they saw – vehicles, trucks and cars. The army came within five minutes and they took the company people to the company building. They closed the way. They pushed people to the village. Now the work on the dam has stopped.
We don’t know if the owner was arrested. He went with the army. The army saw him shooting at people. Everybody has a gun in the company. For example, if they come here to do their shopping they bring guns.
One person was shot in the leg and has a big problem. The other two will be home in a few days.
I don’t work for the company. This company has been working here for seven years. They bring workers from Diyarbakır. They gave me just two months work, last year, during Ramadan.
All of the problems here are about work. They don’t give work to local people. Not many people work in the village on the dam. Maybe ten. Out of 1,000 workers locally about 200 are from our villages. It’s a hard job. For one day you earn about 70 lira (£17.50). I was a manager, fixing iron onto a building. That was good money. Generally people get 1,000 lira per month. I got 2,000. I worked between ten and twelve hours per day and I wasn’t paid any extra money to work more than eight hours. I didn’t have a contract.
When will the dam be completed?
It is not certain when the dam will be finished – two to three years, or sooner if they work hard. It would be better if the dam stopped now. Even though they bring work they bring very hard work. We work very hard and are paid very little money.
There are hot springs here. If the dam wasn’t here, we would have lots of tourists here at the hot springs. No tourists come here now. Only local people. Generally it’s forbidden for people to come here because of the dam construction. At the gate on the road the security and the army say ”go back”.
The security company is called Alsancak. They are worse than the army.
Do people in the village like the dam?
1-2% of the village like the dam. These people make good money – they have a contract with the army or the company. For example, the company says: “we need more people or a car”; and they will be paid to find one for them.
Is this a Kurdish village?
The people in this village are 100% Kurdish.
Did people protest against the dam construction?
We couldn’t protest because there were too many Jandarma[military police]. They built nearly 20 kallekols [military forts] in 2006/7. First they made the [military] stations, then they brought the company, then the army came.
Before the dam started someone from the government came to ask us if we wanted the dam. Everyone said “no” but they didn’t listen.
Will you have to leave your village?
It’s not certain if we will have to move when the dam is complete. When they test the water they will see whether we will have to go. I don’t know where we would go to.
For another village, they paid them compensation and told them they can go wherever they want. My home is worth 300,0000 lira, they would pay me roughly 100,000 lira. Everywhere it’s the same. They pay very little money. In this village no one has taken any compensation yet. They haven’t made an offer. They haven’t said where we can live.
Can people do anything in Europe to stop the dam?
The important thing is that they know that we are here because you talk about us. Don’t forget us.
What do you think about the companies working here?
I was born here. I have land and a home here. This company has killed the region and the area. They treat poor people like animals. This dam won’t bring happiness to the region.
What are the reasons for the building of the dam?
I don’t believe it’s for electricity. It’s political. We won’t get any benefits from the dam.
Do you have hope that the dam won’t be completed?
I always pray to god that the dam will not be completed. We want nature to stay as it is.
Interview with Asya Okay and her daughter
Asya Okay outside her house in Hasankeyf (Corporate Watch 2015)
Can you tell us about yourself?
Asya: We are Kurmanci Kurdish. I am 48 years old. I was born in Gerçus and I got married and moved here 23 years ago. My mother and father have died.
What do you think about the dam?
All of the women say that they don’t want the dam. Here is our home. After the dam is completed we won’t have a home. I don’t know where we will go. We do not have the money for a new house in New Hasankeyf. We get very little money for the houses here. They have offered 60,000 lira but houses in New Hasankeyf are 120,000 lira. There are five people in my family – three sons and one daughter – and one son is married. My married son lives in the same house, as we are banned from building new houses here. Because it’s a historical place we couldn’t build any new house.
My husband is working in Istanbul because there are no jobs here. Tourism is finished here in Hasankeyf. We have tourism for only two months per year. The castle is closed. In the winter people don’t come. Before, my husband had a restaurant on the Tigris. But then the government said it was dangerous because one rock fell from the castle. There were 35 restaurants on the Tigris. Every family had a job here before things were closed three years ago. We had the restaurant for 16 years.
My husband is now a cook in Istanbul. He has a second marriage and four children in Istanbul.
Here the women are second class citizens.
Asya’s daughter: the women are fourth class citizens!
Why is the dam bad for women?
Asya: For women it’s no good in the new city. There’s no jobs. We have children. Where will the children get jobs? My daughter is 22 years old. My sons are 19, 20, and my married son is 25. My sons have no jobs.
When the dam comes I don’t know where we will go. The money will not go to us. It will go to our mother and father-in-law who own the house
My husband and his second wife will have a new house in Batman. The dam is almost finished. We said five years ago that we didn’t want the dam but they are still going ahead with it.
Will you buy a house in New Hasankeyf?
Asya’s daughter: For the first five years we don’t have to pay money, then after that we can pay 600 lira per month. The houses are good in New Hasankeyf and there’s a mosque and a new school. In Old Hasankeyf the school isn’t good. But the dam is not good either. After the dam is completed there will be a museum here. I will live in New Hasankeyf. What else can I do? Everywhere else will be under water. [Historical architecture] is being restored here but when the dam is finished everything here will be a museum.
Interview with Birsen Yeşil, her daughter Dibra Yeşil, and husband Abdullah in Hasankeyf
Can you tell us about yourself and your family?
I am 44 years old. We are an Arab family and we speak Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish. I’m married and have children. I was born in Hasankeyf and I have been married for 28 years. I have four children – three sons and one daughter. My daughter is 17. My sons are 10, 15 and 16.
What do you think of the dam?
I think that the dam is a good thing. Maybe New Hasankeyf will be good. The houses in New Hasankeyf are good. We will buy two houses – one in New Hasankeyf and one in Batman. My husband is a chauffeur and will continue to do this work in new Hasankeyf. The house is worth 70,000 lira [in compensation] but the family will not get this as we do not own our house.
Abdullah: I don’t want the dam. We don’t want the dam! My city is good. I was born here, my father was born here. If you like the dam I will have a second marriage!
Birsen: New Hasankeyf may be good because we will have a new school and hospital. We don’t have them here. There are no big schools, no hospitals, no big hotels. Maybe it will be better there.
Dibra: The dam is good because in New Hasankeyf my school may be good. The historical monuments going underwater may be bad but maybe the school and hospital will be good.
If you were provided a good school and hospital here in the old town, would you still want the dam?
Mother and daughter: No. If we had the school and hospital here and they were good, we wouldn’t want the dam.
Interview with Bilal Memiş in Hasankeyf
Picture Caption: Bilal Memiş in one of Hasankeyf’s 5000 caves (Corporate Watch 2015)
Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Hasankeyf. My family is Kurdish. I’m 19 years old. I go to Batman university and I’m studying to be an oil engineer. I’m a tour guide in Hasankeyf on the two days that I’m not at university. Three years before, people visited the local castle. Now it’s closed they just see the church and canyon.
After the castle closed, not many tourists came here. There’s no work here since the castle closed. My family lives here and my father works in Kocaeli now. He’s working in construction. Before the castle closed my father had a restaurant on the Tigris. Now he has to go for work in Kocaeli.
What do you think of the dam?
The dam is not good. The history will be finished here. I was born here. I love it here. It’s very beautiful. But the dam will destroy that. My grandfather and grandmother’s tombs are here. When the dam comes the tombs will be under the water.
Why do you think the dam is being built?
The government wants the dam for water and electricity.
What do you think of New Hasankeyf?
New Hasankeyf is not good because here is so nice. The new school and hospital may be good. My school here in Hasankeyf is not so good. It’s not clean and there’s not good teaching. The building’s not good.
Have there been protests against the dam?
There have been many protests against the dam. Many people came. I went to them. But the government says that the dam will be built. Kurdish politicians say “no” to the dam. Other countries have stopped the money [being invested in] the dam but Turkey doesn’t stop. Now Akbank and Garanti bank are giving money. I want this to become a UNESCO site because then the dam won’t come here. People in Europe must put pressure on governments.