Tuesday, July 08, 2008


"The Ilisu dam is a hydroelectric project on the River Tigris. If built, it would displace up to 78,000 mostly Kurdish people from 183 villages and hamlets and the historic town of Hasankeyf."
~ KHRP, The Cultural and Environmental Impact of Large Dams in Southeast Turkey.

Called Heskîf in Kurdish, Hasankeyf needs no introduction. Hasankeyf is one of the world's oldest places, dating back 10,000 years. This isn't difficult to believe since the region contains archaeological sites that date back to 9,500BC, some 12,000 years ago. More recently, it was a fortress for the Romans, a province of the Byzantines, conquered and ruled by Arabs, and captured and sacked by Mongols. Today, Hasankeyf is a sleepy town in North Kurdistan who's history is under threat from the fascist Ankara regime.

I met this little lamb on the way to Hasankeyf. Its mother had died and the lamb was being bottle-fed by humans. As a result, the sight of humans brought the cute little thing running and crying for something to eat.

Also on the way to Hasankeyf, the mosque at the tomb of Veysel Karani, in Sêrt (Siirt).

Here's the dome at the entrance of the mosque. The colors were fantastic.

Climbing up to the top of Hasankeyf.

Here's the Dicle (Tigris) in the direction of Batman. Notice how low the water level is.

Here the Dicle flows past Hasankeyf, on its way to Iraq.

This photo was taken at the Great Mosque at the top of Hasankeyf. When I was there three years ago, one could read "PKK" on the wall. Today, one can read "HPG". "Apo" can be found in a number of places on the wall.

A building at the top of the town. Notice the haze in the background? It was the result of strong winds that had been blowing from the south for a couple of days.

More buildings at the top of Hasankeyf, and more haze. Try to imagine how many people have lived, died, and were buried here over the many millenia of Hasankeyf's existence.

This is looking toward the south.

Much of the vegetation here were thistle plants, one of the few things that could survive for long here--except cactus--especially since a drought is ongoing in the region and the heat of summer was building. In the spring, however, the area is very green and cool.

Off the road on the way to Batman, we stopped for tea. I found these young pomegranate's growing in the fenced-in yard next to our picnic site. Pomegranates are one of the jewels of Kurdistan.


Gordon Taylor said...

Yikes. Great stuff. I looked at one of the pictures, "Climbing up to the top of Hasankeyf," and I thought for sure I had seen it before. I went through my books and found it: "The Tower of Babel" by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. The resemblance is extraordinary.

And the Dicle, looking like it's on life support, hoping that the Savur, the Bohtan Su, or the Habur will show up soon and keep it alive.

This is the kind of stuff that seeps into your blood and won't go away.


Hevallo said...

Brilliant heval heja, beautiful pictures of Hasankeyf. I remember going here in 1993. We pretended we were going to see the sights but were using it as a pretence to speak to Kurdish trade unionists from Petrol Is, the oil workers union based in Batman. Then, the atmosphere was so repressive...but thats another story... but there were these soldiers who wanted to 'escort' us around Hasankeyf so we could not talk to this guy.

As we walked from the old mosque towards the caves, there is a large expanse of cliffs which makes for a great echo.

So with this Turkish officer inches from my face I began to draw in the air around me into my lungs and with every muscle in my body and let forth the loudest, animalistic scream from inside me, releasing all the tension and stress that had built up since our arrival in that country that was carrying out a systematic genocide against the Kurdish people.

The Turkish officer grabbed his gun and turned towards me, visibly shaken and shocked...... I smiled, "Nice echo!" I said and walked on feeling very smug knowing that because I held a UK passport that I, hopefully, would not get a bullet in my head.

However, there were many times later when I honestly believed we would be filled with Turkish army and Hizbullah bullets

Mizgîn said...

That's interesting about Breughel and the tower of Babel, Gordon. Maybe Breughel went to Kurdistan;)

As for the Dicle, the drought in the region is pretty bad. I remember a week or so ago there was an article in Zaman about the drought and they were moaning about how Turkey's overall crop production for the year is going to suffer. A lot of the basic foods are grown in the region. Plus, as you can see from the haze in the photos, the drought must go much further south, into the Kurdish part of Syria and Iraq because all that haze was dust. It was so thick down by the border that we were coughing from it after a day.

Great story, Hevallo. After you screamed, I hope you asked the officer to check his pants. I can just imagine his face. They're so used to using chaos to control everything, he must have short-circuited to have the same kind of thing pulled on him.

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lafra said...

Hi! Wonderful pictures of Hasankeyf!
Can I use that of the caves inhabited by local people in my University thesis? It's about the Ilisu dam and its impacts (and you know the terrific conseguences on the village of Hasankeyf...)
Thank you!!