Residents panic as city set to be flooded by Turkish government to build controversial dam

The Turkish government is planning to flood the ancient city of Hasankeyf, located in the country's southeastern region, to continue the construction of a controversial new hydroelectric dam.

The historic city, which dates back 12,000 years and is believed to be one of the world's oldest continually inhabited settlements, is in the process of being evacuated to facilitate the continuation of the Ilisu Dam project, set in motion in 2006 after decades of planning and discussion, the Guardian reports.

Although the city, situated on the bank of the Tigris river, is home to thousands of caves, churches, tombs and other priceless archaeological sites, it will soon be inundated with water by a reservoir created for the dam, despite years of protests from residents, archaeologists, architects, preservationists and environmentalists.

The Ilisu Dam is set to generate 4,200 gigawatts of electricity each year upon the project's completion, but at a huge cost — the Guardian estimates the government initiative will bring about the destruction of 199 settlements and displace close to 80,000 people.

The Turkish government gave residents of Hasankeyf until Oct. 8 to evacuate, prompting renewed outcries from locals who have long been advocating to save their city, including Ridvan Ayhan, who was born and raised there.

"We've asked for the area to be an open-air museum but the government wouldn’t accept it," Ayhan told the Guardian. "If you dig here you will find cultures layered on top of one another."

Ayhan also mentioned that thousands of generations of the city's deceased will be displaced by the planned flooding. 

"The government doesn’t even respect the dead," Ayhan said. "They are barbaric."

Another resident of Hasankeyf, 38-year-old Merut Tekin, who comes from a long line of merchants who have run shops in the city, told outlet Quantara.de that the dam project, which has been in the making for decades, has been a major stressor on him since he was born.

"The analogy I use is that it's like having a death sentence," he explained. "You are standing on a chair with a rope around your neck, but the chair is neither kicked nor is the rope taken off. You just stand there waiting — it's terrible."

Photos of the city: 

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Historic city of Hasankeyf set to be flooded to build controversial dam
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Historic city of Hasankeyf set to be flooded to build controversial dam
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View of old Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, with the new Hasankeyf in the background in the southeastern town of Hasankeyf, Turkey, June 1, 2019. Picture taken June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Mazlum Cetin sits on the roof of the apartment building where he lives with his family in new Hasankey, in southeastern Turkey August 11, 2018. Picture taken August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Julia Harte
Fatime Salkan and her brother Hizrullah Salkan sit at Fatime's house in the southeastern town of Hasankeyf, Turkey August 11, 2018. Picture taken August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Julia Harte
A general view of the ancient town of Hasankeyf by the Tigris river, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, April 29, 2018. Picture taken April 29, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar
A general view of the ancient town of Hasankeyf by the Tigris river, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, April 29, 2018. Picture taken April 29, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar
View of an old house with the new Hasankeyf in the background in the southeastern town of Hasankeyf, Turkey August 13, 2018. Picture taken August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Julia Harte
An enormous, 600-year-old tomb is moved on a large wheeled platform, to make way for a hydroelectric dam on the Tigris river, in a village of Hasankeyf, southeastern Turkey, Friday May 12, 2017. The 15th-century, domed Zeynel Bey Tomb, weighing 1,100 tons, was moved in one piece Friday, traveling two kilometers from the ancient settlement of Hasankeyf, where the majority of villages and historic sites are at risk of being submerged in water when the Ilisu Dam is completed. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)
An enormous, 600-year-old tomb is moved on a large wheeled platform, to make way for a hydroelectric dam on the Tigris river, in a village of Hasankeyf, southeastern Turkey, Friday May 12, 2017. The 15th-century, domed Zeynel Bey Tomb, weighing 1,100 tons, was moved in one piece Friday, traveling two kilometers from the ancient settlement of Hasankeyf, where the majority of villages and historic sites are at risk of being submerged in water when the Ilisu Dam is completed. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)
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