Watery grave for ancient Turkish town of Hasankeyf

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This photo taken on August 17, 2019 shows the village of Celik which was deserted and invaded by water, in Dargecit, southeast Turkey. (AFP)
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An elderly woman looks at the newly built stone wall near the 12,000-year-old city of Hasankeyf, on the banks of the Tigris in southeastern Turkey on August 17, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

Watery grave for ancient Turkish town of Hasankeyf

  • A new Hasankeyf has been built nearby, with some of the old town’s monuments relocated there and brand-new homes for its 3,000 inhabitants

HASANKEYF, TURKEY: In a graveyard beside the doomed town of Hasankeyf, workers are exhuming bodies, carrying them to a new resting place away from the waters that will soon submerge this ancient site.
Here on the banks of the Tigris in southeastern Turkey, the residents of Hasankeyf, a town with 12,000 years of history, are waiting for the waters to come.
A new dam upstream is already operational. In the next few months, the town and nearly 200 villages in this valley will be gone.
Fatih, who did not give his full name, watches as workers carry away the bones of his brother, killed in an accident more than 20 years ago. It is like a second funeral, he says. In the background is Hasankeyf’s ancient citadel, one of the few monuments high enough to survive the rising waters, but is now fronted by a huge, white stone wall to protect it.
For 73-year-old Mehmet, the endless construction work around these old monuments is like watching the funeral of an old friend. He is busy cultivating the figs and grapes in his garden that he has tended since he was a child. This is the last time — by April, they will be underwater.

HIGHLIGHT

For 73-year-old Mehmet, the endless construction work around these old monuments is like watching the funeral of an old friend

A new Hasankeyf has been built nearby, with some of the old town’s monuments relocated there and brand-new homes for its 3,000 inhabitants. But many find it hard to let go.
“This year, officials told us not to sow seeds because the water was coming, but we did it anyway. We will sow right up to the end,” said Meseha, 62, in the nearby village of Cavuslu.
Some parts of the valley have already become a lake. That is forcing local fishermen, used to working the flowing waters of the Tigris, to adapt to still waters.
Halil Ertan, 48, is not impressed by the new types of fish he finds in the lake — fatter and less tasty, he says.
Back at the graveyard, 12-year-old Yunus is looking for the grave of his little brother who died at birth in 2016.
But when he finds it, the officials tell him the family has not done the necessary paperwork for the grave to be moved. It will be submerged with everything else that is left behind.

 


Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

Updated 27 min 27 sec ago

Lebanese protests swell as cabinet to hold key meeting

  • Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied on Sunday
  • The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters were expected to return to the streets for a fifth day Monday, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri holding a cabinet meeting to try to calm the unprecedented demonstrations.
Hundreds of thousands of people from across Lebanon’s sectarian divides rallied against corruption and the entire political class Sunday, the largest such demonstrations in the country for years.
Early Monday morning protesters began to block main roads and prevent employees going to work, while calls on social media urged people to boycott work.
Banks, universities and schools closed their doors Monday, with Hariri expected to offer reforms in a bid to stem the anger.
“It’s a day of destiny for us. All our hard work and efforts in previous days and years were to get us to this moment,” said Roni Al-Asaad, a 32-year-old activist in central Beirut.
“If they could have implemented these reforms before, why haven’t they? And why should we believe them today?”
At the nerve center of the demonstrations near the country’s houses of government in central Beirut, volunteers were once again collecting rubbish from the streets, many wearing face masks and plastic gloves.
The protests have grown steadily since public anger first spilled onto the streets Thursday evening in response to a proposed tax on calls via WhatsApp and other messaging services.
While the government quickly dropped that plan, the leaderless protests morphed into demands for a sweeping overhaul of the political system, with grievances ranging from austerity measures to poor infrastructure.
Hariri had given his coalition partners three days to support reforms he said were crucial to get the economy back on track.
On Sunday evening a cabinet official said that the parties had agreed.
The cabinet will hold a meeting chaired by President Michel Aoun at 10:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) to discuss the reforms.
Demonstrators said Hariri’s proposals would not be enough, with demands for the entire political class to resign.
“All of them are warlords,” said Patrick Chakar, 20. “We waited 30 years or more for them to change and they didn’t.”
More than a quarter of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line, the World Bank says, while the political class has remained relatively unchanged since the end of a devastating 15-year civil war in 1990.
Lebanon ranked 138 out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2018 corruption index, and residents suffer chronic electricity and water shortages.
Lebanese media hailed the demonstrations.
Al-Akhbar newspaper, which is close to Shiite Muslim militant party Hezbollah, published a picture of protesters carrying a giant flag on its front page with a commentary on “Test Day: Power or People?”
The French-language newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour said “The hour of truth has arrived,” while the English-language The Daily Star said: “Lebanon’s only paths: reform or abyss.”