Monday, October 4, 2010

City Walls of Diyarbakir under threat

City Walls of Diyarbakir are the second longest walls in the world after the Great Wall of China. Dating back to ten thousand years the city walls are one the most popular tourist attractions in Kurdistan.

The walls were in a relatively good condition until the end of the 19th century. But as the city gets more populated, especially after 1990's the walls are seriously damaged. The interior parts of the walls are renovated but outer parts looks like ruins in some locations.  

Hundreds of thousand people were displaced in Kurdistan in result of the conflict between Turkey and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Most of them lived in small houses built very close to the city walls. Some even used stones of the city wall to build homes.

This affected the city walls near Mardin Kapi-Yeni Kapı and Urfa kapı-BenuSen-Mardin Kapı. Some sections are near to a total collapse while archeologists say that most of the city walls won't stand by the end of this century unless a comprehensive renovation plan is implemented.

The city walls are about six kilometers long. As Diyarbakir was home to different civilizations through ages there are various signs like lion-head figures, Christian cross and Islamic crescent.

The city walls were under threat by urban development in 1930s. The governor of Diyarbakir decided to tear down some parts of the city walls in an effort to build more roads. But this attempt was obstructed by a French archeologist Albert Louis Gabriel and Diyarbakir's elders.

But some parts near Dag Kapi and Mardin Kapı were torn down unless Gabriels efforts were effective.

Since then for over eighty years no comprehensive renovation were made. Ten years ago the coffee shops, tea gardens near the city walls were removed and replaced with parks.

Only only one of eighty-two towers of Diyarbakir city walls stand today.

The municipality of Diyarbakir has only limited funds for renovation of city walls. Without the central government's and international institution's interference the city walls of Diyarbakır won't live for another century.