September 2007: There had been another court-ordered stay of execution for Hasankeyf. Several had been overturned by the government, so people were wary. Atlas Magazine and Doga Dernegi organized a protest train, the one pictured here. The ancient town quivered on the edge of destruction, absolutely unique, a monument to the past, a hope of the future.
DAM NATION! But Turkey is about right now, and dams are the order of the day. Dams are sexy. Lots of water, lots of electricity, lots of jobs, and fast. Detractors say solar power is sexier, that dams dry out the country. There’s a lot of pro-dam noise right now. Articles sing the praises of the many dams and say they’re creating all kinds of great sites. I dunno. I sure saw a lot of dead rivers.
Actually I do know. In California, right about the time of this protest, they began the process to dismantle dams, as they ruin the ecology. Dam detractors in Turkey argue that river valleys would, if cultivated, provide more money than the dams, prevent more overcrowding in the cities, and the most fertile and beautiful country in the Middle East would continue to provide plentifully for its people. In Mesopotamia, the origins of civilization would endure as they always have. We could continue to visit and learn from them.
The Ilisu Dam will last about forty years, and cost over a billion dollars. It was the approval of the European banks that inspired this 2007 protest train, the first of several. Three hundred and seventy-four Turks and one American traveled with little sleep and no showers to celebrate this diehard ancient town. Future generations may look aghast at the destruction of such a treasure for such a paltry reason. How could people do such a thing? But Turkish people in all walks of life fought long and hard to keep it.
I was honored to join them. We didn’t win. But we won something. We tried, and I can sleep at night, and there’s all this art. We take happy where we can find it.
Rocking the Cradle of Civilization in Hasankeyf NEXT: 5 COMMON GROUND