Photos: An ancient Turkish town descends to a watery grave

The small town of Hasankeyf, in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast, inhabited for around 12,000 years, is doomed to disappear in the coming months. An artificial lake, part of the Ilisu hydroelectric dam project, will swallow it up. The dam, which will be Turkey's second largest, has been built further downstream of the Tigris. Turkey has started filling a huge hydroelectric dam on the Tigris river, a lawmaker and activists said, despite protests that it will displace thousands of people and risks creating water shortages downstream in Iraq. Residents are being moved from the ancient town to a 'New Hasankeyf' nearby, while historic artefacts have also been transported out of the area.

Updated On Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST 11 Photos
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A woman takes a picture of Hasankeyf, on the banks of the Tigris. At first glance all is as normal in this Turkish town which as seen the Romans, Byzantines, Turkic tribes and Ottomans leave their mark over its 12,000 years of inhabitation. But Hasankeyf is disappearing. An artificial lake, part of the Ilisu hydroelectric dam project, is swallowing it up. The dam, which will be Turkey’s second largest, has been built further downstream the Tigris. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

A woman takes a picture of Hasankeyf, on the banks of the Tigris. At first glance all is as normal in this Turkish town which as seen the Romans, Byzantines, Turkic tribes and Ottomans leave their mark over its 12,000 years of inhabitation. But Hasankeyf is disappearing. An artificial lake, part of the Ilisu hydroelectric dam project, is swallowing it up. The dam, which will be Turkey’s second largest, has been built further downstream the Tigris. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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Workers carry a coffin from the old Hasankeyf cemetery to be moved to the new Hasankeyf cemetery. In a graveyard beside the doomed town, workers are exhuming bodies, carrying them to a new resting place away from the waters that will soon submerge this ancient site. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Workers carry a coffin from the old Hasankeyf cemetery to be moved to the new Hasankeyf cemetery. In a graveyard beside the doomed town, workers are exhuming bodies, carrying them to a new resting place away from the waters that will soon submerge this ancient site. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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A boy lies in the Botan river under the old bridge, a few kilometers from the Ilisu dam, near Siirt city. Part of the Botan valley will be under water soon. Here in southeastern Turkey, the residents of Hasankeyf, are waiting for the waters to come. The new dam upstream is already operational. In the next few months, the town and nearly 200 villages in this valley will be gone. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

A boy lies in the Botan river under the old bridge, a few kilometers from the Ilisu dam, near Siirt city. Part of the Botan valley will be under water soon. Here in southeastern Turkey, the residents of Hasankeyf, are waiting for the waters to come. The new dam upstream is already operational. In the next few months, the town and nearly 200 villages in this valley will be gone. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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A worker holds the covered head of a corpse of a 15-year-old boy who died in 1997 in an accident in Hasankeyf as his 28-year-old brother Fatih (R) looks on, as they ready to transport it to the new cemetery. Fatih said, he remember the day his brother died, he was climbing on the leg of the historical bridge to catch some pigeons but fell and died, adding that “today I went back to his funeral again”. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

A worker holds the covered head of a corpse of a 15-year-old boy who died in 1997 in an accident in Hasankeyf as his 28-year-old brother Fatih (R) looks on, as they ready to transport it to the new cemetery. Fatih said, he remember the day his brother died, he was climbing on the leg of the historical bridge to catch some pigeons but fell and died, adding that “today I went back to his funeral again”. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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An elderly woman looks at the newly built stone wall near Hasankeyf. 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. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

An elderly woman looks at the newly built stone wall near Hasankeyf. 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. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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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. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

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. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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The Artuklu Hamam, a centuries-old bath house, is loaded onto a wheeled platform and moved down a specially constructed road from Hasankeyf to a new location on August 06, 2018. 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. (Ilyas Akengin / AFP)

The Artuklu Hamam, a centuries-old bath house, is loaded onto a wheeled platform and moved down a specially constructed road from Hasankeyf to a new location on August 06, 2018. 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. (Ilyas Akengin / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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The village of Celik which was deserted and invaded by water, in Dargecit, southeast Turkey. “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. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

The village of Celik which was deserted and invaded by water, in Dargecit, southeast Turkey. “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. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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Muhammed (L) and Hasret (R) enjoy a hot spring water in the Botan valley a few kilometers from the Ilisu dam, next to the city of Siirt. The flooding is forcing local fishermen, used to working the flowing waters of the Tigris, to adapt to still waters. Halil Ertan, 48, isn’t impressed by the new types of fish he finds in the lake -- fatter and less tasty, he said. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Muhammed (L) and Hasret (R) enjoy a hot spring water in the Botan valley a few kilometers from the Ilisu dam, next to the city of Siirt. The flooding is forcing local fishermen, used to working the flowing waters of the Tigris, to adapt to still waters. Halil Ertan, 48, isn’t impressed by the new types of fish he finds in the lake -- fatter and less tasty, he said. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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Back at the graveyard, Yunus (2nd-L) stoods with his younger brother (L) as they waited for workers to show them the grave of their younger baby brother who died at birth in 2016. But when he found it, the officials told him the family has not done the necessary paperwork for the grave to be moved. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Back at the graveyard, Yunus (2nd-L) stoods with his younger brother (L) as they waited for workers to show them the grave of their younger baby brother who died at birth in 2016. But when he found it, the officials told him the family has not done the necessary paperwork for the grave to be moved. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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Hacire Yalcin (C), 55-years-old walks with her sister and her sister in-law (R) in the middle of old Hasankeyf cemetery as they search for one of their relatives' graves which will be moved to the new Hasankeyf cemetery. They are among the lucky ones; the graves of those like Yunus’s brother will be submerged with everything else that is left behind. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Hacire Yalcin (C), 55-years-old walks with her sister and her sister in-law (R) in the middle of old Hasankeyf cemetery as they search for one of their relatives' graves which will be moved to the new Hasankeyf cemetery. They are among the lucky ones; the graves of those like Yunus’s brother will be submerged with everything else that is left behind. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Updated on Sep 24, 2019 03:35 PM IST
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