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The New Anatolian / Ankara

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is asking Ankara for urgent information on the inundation of an ancient city due to dam construction after agreeing to hear a case on the controversial project.

According to recent reports, the ECHR agreed to hear a case on Hasankeyf filed by academics, attorneys and environmental activists.
Despite government assurances that the ancient city will be saved from inundation, opposition parties, civil groups and academics argue that a significant part of Hasankeyf will be lost with the completion of the Ilisu Dam.

The ECHR also decided to immediately request information from the Turkish government regarding the present state of the dam construction and measures planned for the protection of the ancient city's cultural heritage.
One of the applicants, attorney Murat Cano, said that the ECHR's agreeing to hear the case is very important as that means the court considers cultural heritage a fundamental human right.
"The process that will follow is the acceptance of cultural heritage and related rights and freedoms as a fundamental right in international conventions and the consideration of crimes against these rights crimes against humanity and the trial of those responsible for this," Cano said.
Another applicant, Ocan Yuksek from Atlas magazine, said that the court's ruling expanded the scope of the concept of human rights in Europe.
Atlas magazine recently started circulating a petition entitled "Loyalty to Hasankeyf" to be sent to the prime ministers of Turkey, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, asking that the dam's construction be halted. "No amount of money or energy production can justify our losing our ties with our history," says the petition, which so far has been signed by around 35,000 people.

In related news, the Austrian, German and Swiss governments are planning to send teams to Hasankeyf to assess the claims that the dam's construction will inundate Hasankeyf, as a step towards deciding whether to approve funds for the international consortium to construct the dam.

Koc: Hasankeyf is already gone

Culture and Tourism Minister Atilla Koc made a statement over the weekend saying that he's an expert on the ancient city and there are only "15 or 20" historical artifacts to be saved there. "Hasankeyf is already gone, it's been erased from history," said Koc.
Koc also rejected Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) Mardin Deputy Muharrem Dogan's suggestion to construct the dam on a smaller scale to save Hasankeyf from disappearing beneath the water.

Dogan said that if the dam were to be constructed to a 479-meter water level plan instead of 510 meters, there would be a $40 million loss in energy production but Hasankeyf would be saved from inundation.

"We made our decision, we won't construct the dam on a smaller scale," said Koc.

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