Ilisu Dam Protest: Bridge Blockaded by Hansakeyf Villagers

Jason Rainey
Villagers Protest Ilisu Dam
Villagers Protest Ilisu Dam
Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive

Earlier this year I spent a morning standing with indigenous leaders from the Amazon, Patagonia and the Lake Turkana region of Kenya in a first-ever blockade of the Ilisu Dam site on the upper Tigris River. Thousands of miles from our homes, we joined with people in eastern Turkey to temporarily halt construction traffic and raise media attention of the ecological and culture threats posed by this megadam in Mesopotamia. 

Later that day, I arrived in the ancient city of Hasankeyf, welcomed with song and dance by a people fighting to keep their city – a candidate for World Heritage designation – above the floodwaters of the reservoir that would back up behind Ilisu Dam. All the indigenous leaders in the delegation face the same threat – the extinction of their river-dependent culture and livelihoods from the specter of large hydro-dams. Power, not so much for people, but to electrify extractive industries. Together, carrying banners that read “Rivers Unite and Dams Divide,” we were drawing connections and building solidarity that spans the globe – from the cradle of civilization, to the cradle of humanity, to the heart of the rainforest.

Bridge Blockaded in Protest of Ilisu Dam
Children Protest Ilisu Dam
Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive

Today, I received an update from our courageous allies in the upper Tigris River, organizing as the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive. Just a couple hundred meters from the remains of the ancient Silk Road bridge across the Tigris, hundreds of villagers have blockaded the modern bridge through Hasankeyf in protest of the Ilisu Dam and the process of “resettlement.” 

Their media release, contact information, and photos from the protests are below.  

More information: 

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive


Road blockade by inhabitants of Hasankeyf against ILISU Dam

Ilisu Dam Rotest
Ilisu Dam Protest
Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive

The Inhabitants of the antique city Hasankeyf have blocked the main road through their city in order to protest the Ilisu Dam Project and especially the resettlement process. The road connects the provincial capital Batman with the cities Midyat, Cizre and the Iraqi border and is intensively used.

More than 500 people gathered on the bridge over the Tigris River in the early morning where they persisted and sat until the afternoon although hundreds of policemen gathered and threatened the people. The same day in Hasankeyf all students boycotted the schools and shop-owners closed their shops.

The people demanded the stop of the resettlement process done by the state body State Water Works (DSI). The people criticized the resettlement process, which started three years ago. The DSI foresees small amounts for the current buildings and the triple price for the new houses in "New-Hasankeyf" which is in the constructing phase for two years and located 2 km in the North. Furthermore in the new settlement area are almost no opportunities planned for the new inhabitants, which means a long-term impoverishment. That’s why they shouted "Our caves are enough, we do not need villas", "DSI, stop these works", "Resettlement is deception", "You have stolen our childhood, hands off from our future".

Also the governor of Hasankeyf Temel Ayca, appointed by the central government and the mayor of Hasankeyf Abdulvahap Kusen could not change the view of the people. In the afternoon the protestors have end the blockade without any arrests.
Considering the comparative silence of the last two years by most inhabitants of Hasankeyf, this action increases the protest against the destructive Ilisu Dam Project which has been under construction for three years. It is planned by the government to complete the construction within two years.

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive
Ercan Ayboga (this is the new link for our website!)

Friday, October 11, 2013