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Here was a city: With Hasankeyf 12,000 years of history sink in the reservoir

2022-01-23T10:44:55.507Z

They were promised prosperity and renewal, they got a soulless test-tube city. The flooding of the historic city of Hasankeyf is a symbol of change in Turkey. A photographer accompanied the sinking.



Enlarge image

Jetty on the shore of today's lake: where people have settled for 12,000 years, ships are now bobbing in the water, which are supposed to look like pirate boats

Photo: Bruno Zanzottera / Parallelozero

In Hasankeyf, i.e. the new one, people hammered and knocked to the end.

“Tock, tock, tock” rang out from the construction sites, the photographer recalls

Bruno Zanzottera.

With each blow, the new test-tube city of prefabricated houses for 70,000 people grew.

This is how it came about, the future of Anatolia - right next to the willfully flooded ruins of historic Hasankeyf.

For the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it is a project of the century.

Since the summer of 2020, little can be seen of the old Hasankeyf.

The historic place, shaped by people for 12,000 years, once a station on the Silk Road, has sunk in the floods of a new reservoir, the area of ​​which corresponds to around two thirds of Lake Constance.

The construction of the Ilısu Dam is intended to promote the development of the remote east of Anatolia as part of a large program with further reservoirs and power plants - from the point of view of many critics also a demonstration of power by the Turkish government in a region that is primarily populated by Kurds.

In any case, the government in Ankara is willing to make valleys with hundreds of villages disappear for this plan.

But no change in the region has grabbed as many headlines for almost two decades as the sinking of Hasankeyf.

For years the world feared for the future of the place.

Historians and archaeologists warned of the destruction of a huge excavation area.

Germany, Switzerland and Austria therefore stopped their guarantees for the construction of the project as early as 2009.

Kurdish activists fought against the related resettlement plans for years.

And there was also criticism in the Turkish majority society.

In 2009, the popular pop singer Tarkan demanded in a SPIEGEL interview before the dam was built: »Stop the madness!«

All of that didn't help much.

The Italian photographer Bruno Zanzottera has been following the changes in Turkey for years.

When he came to Hasankeyf for the first time in 2015, he says, he didn't know what exactly he was experiencing here: an example of the awakening of civil society?

Or rather a demonstration of power by the state?

Zanzottera decided to document the change in the area.

Today his photos show six of 12,000 years in the history of Hasankeyf.

A tiny excerpt – and probably a crucial one nonetheless.

When the photographer visited the city for the last time last August, the historic town center was already gone.

As a replacement, the government had promised residents new houses, but not all were compensated.

And: The new Hasankeyf should become a tourist magnet.

Boats that look like pirate ships are now floating on the newly created lake.

Some remains of the old place - columns, statues, even entire mausoleums - have been transferred to an open-air museum.

So far, this "Hasankeyf New Cultural Park" has 3.4 out of five possible stars on Google Maps.

The few visitors who have rated it seem unconvinced.

One called the museum a »cultural cemetery«.

Another wrote: 'They turned the place into a pile of concrete.

It's not worth going to."

Even in the new Hasankeyf, many things still seem sterile, and in the pictures it seems as if the residents were at ease with their own future.

Not everyone came.

The newly created city has squeezed villages that have grown over generations into a grid of thousands of anonymous houses.

Many developments in Turkey, says Bruno Zanzottera, can be seen in buildings.

On those who disappear and of course on those who emerge.

It is often more about erecting monuments than helping people in their everyday lives.

And: As autocratically as the Turkish government built in Hasankeyf over all concerns, it is also trying to direct society and the economy.

For a while it seemed to be going well.

In the meantime, however, Turkey has its back against the wall economically.

Inflation is currently higher than it has been in 20 years, and energy prices recently had to be raised drastically.

Construction projects are now coming to a standstill across the country.

Even longtime supporters are turning away from the Erdoğan system.

In the meantime, an eerie calm reigns in the new Hasankeyf.

Water splashes softly against the concrete walls, so far only a few visitors have been seen.

Whether things will get better after the pandemic seems open to questionable.

The water dam, which was once supposed to help advance the country's development, now seems like a reminder against the bulldozer policy of the past few years.

Here's how the locals experienced the sinking of Hasankeyf - and what the region looks like today:

This contribution is part of the Global Society project

Expand areaWhat is the Global Society project?

Under the title »Global Society«, reporters from

Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe

report on injustices in a globalized world, socio-political challenges and sustainable development.

The reports, analyses, photo series, videos and podcasts appear in a separate section in SPIEGEL's international department.

The project is long-term and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

A detailed FAQ with questions and answers about the project can be found here.

AreaWhat does the funding look like in concrete terms?open

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has been supporting the project since 2019 for an initial period of three years with a total of around 2.3 million euros - around 760,000 euros per year.

In 2021, the project was extended by almost three and a half years until spring 2025 under the same conditions.

AreaIs the journalistic content independent of the foundation?open

Yes.

The editorial content is created without the influence of the Gates Foundation.

AreaDo other media also have similar projects?open

Yes.

With the support of the Gates Foundation, major European media outlets such as The Guardian and El País have set up similar sections on their news sites with Global Development and Planeta Futuro respectively.

Did SPIEGEL already have similar projects? open

In recent years, DER SPIEGEL has already implemented two projects with the European Journalism Center (EJC) and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: the "OverMorgen Expedition" on global sustainability goals and the journalistic refugee project "The New Arrivals" as part of this several award-winning multimedia reports on the topics of migration and flight have been created.

Expand areaWhere can I find all publications on the Global Society?

The pieces can be found at SPIEGEL on the Global Society topic page.

Source: spiegel

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