Turkish authorities demolish market in 12,000-year-old village Hasankeyf

The historic Hasankeyf market was demolished in early November. Screengrab of a video by activist Rivdan Ayhan, published on Facebook on Nov. 4.
The historic Hasankeyf market was demolished in early November. Screengrab of a video by activist Rivdan Ayhan, published on Facebook on Nov. 4.

In early November, Turkish authorities told the people living in the village of Hasankeyf that it was time to leave. Despite years of protests by residents and activists, the small village on the banks of the Tigris River will soon be under water as part of a controversial dam project. Authorities have started to move some historic monuments, and have already destroyed others. The historic market, for example, just fell to demolition crews, to the dismay of our Observer.  

Hasankeyf is a village located in southeastern Turkey. Most of its current residents are Kurdish. Once a stop on the old Silk Road, the village has seen has seen the rise and fall of numerous civilizations during its 12,000-year history. However, its own demise is near. The village will soon be flooded by waters from the Ilisu Dam, located 60 kilometres downstream. Construction on the dam is finished and it has already started to hold water. It is set to begin producing electricity in February 2020

A resident of Hasankeyf posted this video on November 4, 2019. 

Read on The Observers >> How Turkey's controversial dam project will put a 12,000-year-old Kurdish village underwater

Turkey's General Direction of State Hydraulic Projects (DSI) is supervising the evacuation of Hasankeyf. Residents are being moved to a newly constructed village at a higher elevation. A total of six historical monuments are scheduled to be transported to the new settlement.  

These photos show residents of Hasankeyf in the process of moving to the new settlement. 

The minaret of the Al Risk mosque, for example, was dismantled and has already been brought to "New Hasankeyf" ("Yeni Hasankeyf" in Turkish). DSI bulldozed the historic market in early November, saying it was necessary for the construction of a road to transport the rest of mosque up to the new settlement.

Mechanical shovels sit on the rubble of several demolished shops in this video posted on Twitter on Nov. 10. "These shops were at least 200 or 300 years old and we found Roman ruins under the rubble. As you can see, all the shops were bulldozed,” says the person filming. At the start of the video, you can see the mosque, which has been placed on a slab on concrete.

"We saw our souls, our past and our stories buried under our homes”

Murat Takin, a 40-year-old shopkeeper, witnessed the historic market being bulldozed. 


I was born in Hasankeyf and I own a shop where I sell gas cylinders. I felt incredible sadness as I watched them bulldoze the historic market. It was like a scene from war, but instead of seeing men trapped under the debris, we saw our souls, our past and our stories buried under our homes. All of that for a dam.

A shopkeeper from Hasankeyf, visibly angry and upset, throws his belongings into a fire as a protest to the dam and the destruction of the market.


When they demolished the market, they found ruins from the Roman and Ottoman eras.

Crews began excavating the area around the historic market in early November. This video was posted as an Instagram story on Nov. 19, 2019.


They excavated the area but it was all very rushed, they just wanted to make it look like they were doing something when really they wanted to finish it as soon as possible. They aren’t being careful at all and will probably destroy precious artifacts.

This video shows the demolition of the market buildings causing small landslides in the area being excavated. (Video posed on Nov. 18, 2019)


This video also shows the site being excavated. It was posted online by journalist Durrie Bouscaren on Nov. 13, 2019.


It’s terrible knowing that there are lots of other ruins hidden under homes in Hasankeyf. If this area is flooded in January, all of these ruins will be lost forever.

An estimated 80% of Hasankeyf and 289 archeological sites will be submerged, according to activists from Hasankeyf Koordinasyonu (Coordination Hasankeyf), who spoke with FRANCE 24. Some of these sites are located in rural areas near the village. A few of them have been partially excavated.

John Crofoot, the founder of the site Hasankeyf Matters, said the destruction of these ruins would be a terrible loss.


Several major monuments will be submerged, including the pillars on the historic bridge, which are from the 12th century, the Koç mosque, the Mardinik complex, which includes a palace, a mosque and a madrasa as well as lots of other smaller archeological sites and mosques.

It’s an entire medieval city and below it are layers upon layers of archeological evidence from the Roman, Hittite and Byzantine Empires. All of that will be under water.

"Rushed excavations beneath what was the Hasankeyf market until 2 weeks ago. Invaluable archaeological record of 12000 years of urban history on the verge of destruction," tweeted activist John Crofoot on Nov. 20, 2019, alongside a video showing the excavations underway.

No one knows exactly what there remains to discover, but this site is unique because of its longevity. The Turkish government needs to take responsibility for preserving the dignity of this exceptional site and sharing the potentially exceptional archeological discoveries with the entire world. 

According to The Guardian, only 10% of the area has been explored by archeologists.