The End of Hasankeyf

The lake created by the Ilısu dam will see the archeological site of Hasankeyf, as well as 199 villages in Turkish Kurdistan, submerged beneath its waters

Ahmed has no doubts: he will be the last to leave Hasankeyf and they will have to force him. He is not the only inhabitant who does not want to leave this small town lying along the banks of the Tigris in Turkish Kurdistan that, after 12 thousand years of history, will soon disappear underwater.

Its end, together with that of 199 other villages – with their approximately 80,000 inhabitants – was decreed by the Turkish government, which recently completed the construction of the huge dam of Ilisu, 85 km further south, a project that cost 1.3 billion euros. The waters of the reservoir have been rising for a few weeks now and will soon flood a vast region. The goal is to produce 4,200 gigawatts of electricity per year for the whole of Turkey. But at the expense of locals who are being forced to leave their homes and fields, often without adequate compensation.

Hasankeyf is a symbolic place of this policy that once again is trampling on the Kurdish people and tearing at their roots. But that’s not all: it is drowning one of the oldest settlements in the history of humankind, where traces left by the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Ottomans are still visible today… The end of Hasankeyf has a date: October 8, 2019. It is the day when all the inhabitants will have to leave the city. And when a piece of the history of Mesopotamia will end forever.

We began to document the situation in Hasankeyf in 2015 when 80% of the dam had been completed, but it seemed that the strong protests against the project might have some hope of success. We are back now to document the beginning of the filling of the lake and practically the end of every hope of a rethink by the Turkish government.