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The Last Days of Hasankeyf


ARTE RE, May 27, 2020, 32 minutes

Hasankeyf, located in the Turkish border area with Iran, Iraq and Syria, is at least 12,000 years old and thus one of the oldest settlements of mankind. Turkey is building a gigantic dam here, the place will sink into the associated reservoir. And below the reservoir, the wetlands of the Tigris will dry up.

Eyüp Agalday is the youngest of eight children and the only one in his family who was not born in a cave in Hasankeyf. Many inhabitants of the legendary settlement were semi-nomads a generation ago. Modest prosperity has developed in the remote region over the past two decades. But soon everything will sink into the water of the huge reservoir. Eyüp Agalday and his family were relocated to the satellite town “Neu Hasankeyf”, where he cannot settle in. The family has its goat stable in a cave above the old Hasankeyf. There he prefers to spend his time with a hundred goats, three herding dogs and a donkey. Eyüp Agalday always brings the animals to the pastures above the old Hasankeyf, but if the water continues to rise, the way there will no longer be passable. Will he have to part with his herd and caves? With his former neighbor, dam opponent and activist Ridvan Ayhan, he’s still trying to convince people to rebel against Hasankeyf’s demise.

Abdullah Tarhan is also affected. He was once an opponent of the dam himself, but now he is the second mayor of the “New Hasankeyf”, the new settlement above the old town. Tarhan is a member of the ruling party. He tries to convince the “rigid heads” that an entire tourism paradise with a historical water park and water sports offers can be created on the banks of the new reservoir. But even in the newly built Hasankeyf Museum, the ceiling of the upper floor is already collapsing. Is the dream of a new future realistic for Hasankeyf as a gem of Turkish cultural tourism?

The flooding through the Illisu dam has catastrophic consequences. Many other farmers and ranchers who farmed in the wetlands of the Tigris will soon lose their livelihood. The supply of entire parts of the country is at risk because the climate in the region will also change. Below the reservoir, the wetlands of the Tigris will dry out.

Thomas Büsch Since 2001 he has been producing TV-programs and documentaries in partnership with Sabine Küper-Büsch.