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Hasankeyf | © Pascal Mannaerts
Hasankeyf | © Pascal Mannaerts
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Before The Flood Gates Break: Turkey’s Hasankeyf Soon To Be Underwater

Picture of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
Updated: 9 February 2017
With a population of around 78,000 predominantly Kurdish people and abundant with history, Hasankeyf is an ancient Turkish town that should be made an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Instead, it is under threat due to the imminent completion of the Ilısu Dam project, which is set to flood the entire area.

Photographed perhaps for the last time by Belgian photographer Pascal Mannaerts, Hasankeyf might soon disappear underwater due to a dam project that has been given the green light. Turkey launched the Ilısu Dam Project in the 1950s along the Tigris River, but legal conflicts postponed construction until 2006. Ten years on and, despite delays from funding issues and attacks from Kurdish militants, the dam is near finished.

With the looming completion of the dam, more than 300 square kilometers of land will be lost – that is around 90 per cent of the ancient city of Hasankeyf, along with almost 200 other hamlets and villages. Located around the Syrian border, Hasankeyf is full of Neolithic caves, Roman ruins, and medieval monuments, tombs, mosques and mausoleums.

A precious example of Mesopotamian history dated at around 12,000 years old, Hasankeyf also has a 600-year old minaret belonging to the El Rizk Mosque. Apart from the loss of history, more than 60,000 people who live in the region will be forced to leave their homes.

Though the government claims the project will boost tourism, many argue tourism will be lost along with the city of Hasankeyf. The government states that the dam project will provide the country with essential power generation, as well as improving local irrigation. It will also provide the region with 10,000 new jobs. A new town for displaced locals with a museum for archeological remnants is also being built.

You can view more photos of Hasankeyf on Pascal Mannaerts’ website.