It‘s not too late to save Hasankeyf and Tigris River!

5 June 2019, 16:40

The 7th and 8th June are the Global Action Days to save the ancient city of Hasankeyf, in the River Tigris valley, and the world heritage site of Mesopotamia. Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish, American, Latin-American and European Civil Society associations are calling for an end to the Ills Dam Project. With the full support of the Italian ‘Un Ponte Per…’ which has been active in the region for 28 years.

The Turkish Government has announced that from June 10th, they will start filling up the Ilisu Dam reservoir, part of the massive water management project on the River Tigris which, if completed, will pose a serious threat to the people who have been living in Mesopotamia for thousands of years.

For this reason, last May more than 100 Civil Society organizations from Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, as well as from America, Latinamerica and Europe, launched an appeal asking the Turkish Government to stop the Dam project, which could seriously damage the environment, ecosystem and the cultural heritage of the Tigris Valley and Mesopotamia. The activists are calling for a new approach, involving all the local communities, in order to ensure the conservation of their hugely important heritage.

One of these organisations is the “Save the Tigris” campaign, launched by young activists and supported by the Italian organisation “Un Ponte Per…(UPP)” which has been active in Iraq for more than 28 years and has signed the CSO appeal.

“The activists’ message is clear: ‘it is not too late’. They are still optimistic that international solidarity can ensure that this world heritage site will be recognised and protected,” states Ismaeel Dawood, UPP Civil Society Officer, who has been working with the association to help the Iraqi population for many years. “Hasankeyf and the surrounding areas must be protected because they are they represent the civilian struggle against large-scale developments which are drawn up without respect for our shared human history, local culture, the environment or the opinion of the people who live there,” he adds.

“Save the Tigris” campaign activists have signed an international appeal calling for concrete solidarity for the Global Action Days for Hasankeyf, scheduled for 7th and 8th June.

Action is planned on those dates in many Turkish cities, in Iraq and throughout Mesopotamia.

Below you will find the appeal by the organisations.


It is not too late to save Hasankeyf!

For 12,000 the town of Hasankeyf, in southern Turkey, was an urban settlement. The heartland of many cultures and civilizations, This remarkable place was founded on the banks of the River Tigris, between the hills and the valleys, and is part of our universal heritage. Recent archeological excavations have shown that Hasankeyf is in fact only a part of a cultural heritage which is yet to be fully explored. Many independent studies have shown that Hasankeyf and the Tigris Valley are as historically important as Esephus, Troy, Capodoccia and similar sites, and they satisfy 9 of the 10 criteria established by UNESCO for recognition as a world heritage site. Research has also shown that Hasankeyf is the twin site to Göbeklitepe, a sanctuary 225 km to the west, dating from the same era, the discovery of which could lead to new theories about the earliest human settlers in history.

While the Turkish Government managed to include Göbeklitepe in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, Hasankeyf and the Tigris Valley will be flooded because of the Ills Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant Project, now nearing completion.

The Turkish Government recently announced that the Ilisu reservoir will be filled from 10th June 2019. Official sources have also estimated that from October 2019 the city of Hasankeyf will be flooded.

From the start, the Ilisu project was a destructive and ill-advised investment.  There have been protests against it since its inception in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and around the world. Despite the official statements, the Ilisu Dam will not bring economic benefits to the majority of the population, but will in fact deprive 80,000 people of their primary source of income.

Beyond Hasankeyf, a vital part of Upper Mesopotamia’s cultural heritage along the banks of the River Tigris will be flooded. The local ecosystem’s biodiversity – most of which is still untouched – will be seriously compromised. The Ilisu project will affect the Tigris Valley, breaking up the reservoirs of Iraq’s largest towns and risking the sustainability of agriculture. Of particular concern are the Mesopotamian Marshes, a UNESCO  heritage site in southern Iraq, which could dry up because of a drop in ground water.

The Turkish Government recently launched a programme for ‘ reallocation and consolidation’ – which seriously damaged Hasankeyf’s cultural heritage. But there is still a lot that can be saved.

Nonostante il progetto di Ilisu sia in fase avanzata, crediamo fortemente che la sua interruzione stimolerebbe un processo di cui la popolazione locale irachena e turca beneficerebbero in modo diretto, a livello economico, sociale e culturale.

Despite the fact that the Ilisu project is already well underway, we still strongly believe that stopping it would be of direct economic, social and cultural benefit to local communities in both Iraq and Turkey.

We are therefore calling on the Turkish Government to stop the filling of the Ilisu Dam reservoir. Instead we want a new approach based on open, transparent and participatory discussions with the population, with local community representatives from the 5 regions affected by the project.

Le politiche future sulla Valle del Tigri e sulla regione dovrebbero essere basate sui risultati di questo dibattito, sviluppate e implementate con l’accordo di tutte le parti interessate. Un’altra condizione imprescindibile dovrebbe essere il raggiungimento di un mutuo accordo con l’Iraq e con la Siria, basato sulla legalità internazionale, che possa garantire un sufficiente afflusso d’acqua alle Paludi Mesopotamiche e a tutto il sud dell’Iraq.

Facciamo appello agli individui e alle organizzazioni nel mondo perché supportino le nostre richieste, e lancino appelli analoghi verso il governo turco.

Future policies which affect the Tigris Valley and the region should be based on the results of these discussions, and developed and implemented in agreement with the interested parties. Another non-negotiable condition should be an agreement between Syria and Iraq, founded on international law, to guarantee adequate  water resources for the Mesopotamian Marshes and all of southern Iraq.

We are appealing for support from people and organisations around the world, hoping they will make similar appeals to the Turkish Government.


Organizations who have signed the appeal:

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, Turkey

Save the Tigris Campaign, Iraq

Mountain Watch, Iran

Humat Dijlah, Iraq

Make Rojava Green Again, Rojava/Syria

Mesopotamia Ecology Movement, Turkey

Waterkeeper Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan

Hasankeyf Matters, Turkey

Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI), Iraq

Ecology Union, Turkey

Munzur Environmental Association, Turkey

Iraqi Social Forum, Iraq

Green Rage Ecology Collective, Turkey

Güzel Zağros’u Destekleme Halk Kampanyası, Iran

TMMOB (Union of Chambers of Engineers and Architects) Batman Provincial Coordination Council, Turkey

Civil Development Organization (CDO), Iraqi Kurdistan

Campaign Right to Water, Turkey

350Ankara, Turkey