Don't Leave Us Homeless, Turkish Villagers Say


Photo of Hasankeyf protest via Doğa Derneği.

"I was born [in Suçeken] and I want to die there," says Behiye Kepti. "I will stay in my village--in a tent, if necessary."

That was the message the 54-year-old Kurdish villager, a mother of six, delivered to European ambassadors late last week on a visit to the Turkish capital of Ankara. Kepti and six other members of the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive met there with representatives of two of the countries that are financially supporting construction of the $1.7 billion Ilısu Dam, which would flood their villages in the southeast of Turkey and force the relocation of 10,000 area residents."If they insist [on carrying out the project], we will commit collective suicide. Anyway, what is the difference if we die or leave our homes? This is what I will tell the ambassadors," Kepti told the English-language newspaper Today's Zaman. "How can we live in another place? We don't know any other life, and we don't know any other language."

The fight against the hydroelectric dam has drawn the support of a top Turkish pop star and a Nobel laureate, as well as 37 municipalities, environmentalists, the Turkish Doctors Union, and many volunteers. The most famous potential victim of the dam, the town of Hasankeyf, is a site with 12,000 years of history that is believed by many to be worthy of designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to lawyer Vecdi Dikran, another member of the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, the dam would not only be destructive, but is also unnecessary:

Turkey is losing 10 to 15 percent of the energy it produces during transmission and the Ilısu Dam will only provide two percent of the electricity Turkey needs. Besides that, there are many other clean energy sources that are not used at all--wind energy, for example.

Work on the project was suspended until today, June 7, by the project's German, Swiss and Austrian underwriters due to concerns that the project was not up to World Bank standards on the environment, relocation, cultural heritage, and neighboring states, so the activists' visit to Ankara was a just-under-the-wire attempt to keep construction from starting up again. Members of the group met with Aldo de Luca from the Swiss Embassy and German Ambassador Eckart Cuntz; Austrian Ambassador Heidemaria Gürer was out of town. Via: "Villagers of Hasankeyf embark upon desperate public diplomacy campaign," Today's Zaman

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Tags: Activism | Dams | Turkey

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