Turkish Dam Threatens Ancient Armenian Ruins

BATMAN, Turkey (Combined Sources)-A plan to build a hydro-electric dam in Southeastern Turkey threatens to destroy ancient Armenian cave ruins located in a 10,000 year old city along the Tigris River.

A joint statement issued by the Armenian community of the Crimea and the Secretary of the Union of Armenian Writers and Artists Sasoun Baryan called on the international community on Monday to prevent the destruction of the ancient settlement of Hasankeyf.

Perched on rock, towering above the Tigris River in the Batman Province of southeastern Turkey, the ancient city of Hasankeyf is a spectacular setting filled with monumen’s to multiple civilizations. The Armenian caves at the very top are 3,000 years old.

"We Armenia’s were exiled from our motherland and scattered throughout the globe…Armenian cultural monumen’s are protected everywhere and we were shocked to hear that Turkey is planning to destroy one of the most ancient monumen’s of Armenian history–the cave-town of Hasankeyf," read the statement. "We condemn the cruelty of the Turkish authorities, which perpetrate another genocide, this time against Armenian heritage."

Soon the entire valley is to be flooded with a dam. The controversial project was first conceived in 1954 and abandoned six years ago.

The Ilisu Dam, which Turkey says will provide energy and jobs in a poor region, is one of 22 being built as part of the GAP regeneration project.

Environmental scientists warn that the dam will devastate the area’s environment and cultural heritage, as well as displace more than 50,000 Kurds currently living in Hasankeyf and almost a hundred other towns and villages in the region. Many view the dam building as a form of ethnic cleansing targeted against the country’s persecuted Kurdish population, which has been falling steadily in Hasankeyf to well below 5000 from 10000.

Dozens of local government ministries, community groups and NGOs have formed a coalition to oppose the dam, called the "Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive."

The British Balfour Beatty and Swiss bank UBS, which were part of the European-Turkish consortium involved in the dam project, pulled out amid international concerns about the project’s social and environmental impact.

Now a new funding deal from an international consortium including Austria, Germany and Switzerland means it is on the brink of realization.


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