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Global protest as ancient town awaits artificial flood

OVER 12,000 years of history and culture face destruction today as Turkish authorities are set to begin flooding the ancient city of Hasankeyf as part of a controversial dam project.

As many as 80,000 people in the country’s south-east face displacement due to the development of the Illisu dam, part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, according to Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive spokesman Ercan Agboya.

More than 100 organisations from Turkey, Iran, Iraq and other countries released a statement demanding construction is halted amid warnings of “an incomparable social, cultural and ecological disaster for a big part of Mesopotamia.”

Many of those in the area have already been forced out. However critics warn of a deliberate plan to displace the local Kurdish population and warn that bullish Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the project to assert regional control over water.

Almost all of the drinking water for Iraq’s major cities is drawn from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The dam would give Turkey the ability to cut supplies and control water flow at a time of severe shortages.

Campaigners say the dam will see water flow to Iraq reduced by 80 per cent. Syria faces a 40 per cent drop.

Its construction will cause Tigris river levels to rise by at least 60 metres. This will cause 80 per cent of the ancient city in Turkey’s Batman province to be submerged along with 199 surrounding villages and more than 300 unexplored historical sites.

Turkey has been criticised by international environmental groups and politicians for continuing with the construction.

Independent researchers have said Hasankeyf fulfils nine out of the 10 Unesco criteria for a World Heritage Site, which would protect it under international law, and say it is as important as Ephesus, Troy and Cappadocia.

Global protests were held at the weekend in a last-ditch bid to stave off the flooding. A delegation including British Labour Party MEP Julie Ward and People’s Democratic Party MP for Batman Ayse Acar Basaran gathered at the site saying: “It’s still not too late to save Hasankeyf.”

“There are dams, nuclear power plants and other projects in the world that have been built but never put into service because the masses fought against it until the very end and gained achievements,” a statement read at the rally said.

“We invite all people and institutions to stand by our side and bring the fight for Hasankeyf to a successful conclusion.”

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