Government-appointed mayor of Turkey’s Van cuts support to archeological excavation

A government-appointed mayor in Turkey’s southeastern province of Van has cut financial support to a large archaeological dig in the area, Birgün newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Turkish Interior Ministry last week replaced the newly elected mayors of the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party in three key provinces in southeast Turkey. The ministry has temporarily assigned the governors of those provinces to take over the mayors’ duties.

In his first week acting as mayor, the Van governor ended the transport funding for an archaeological excavation near a fortress built by the ancient kingdom of Urartu, Erkan Konyar, an academic and the head of Istanbul University’s Van Region History and Archaeology centre, told Birgün.

The 50-member archaeological team, made up of researchers from 10 different universities, can no longer use the municipality’s buses and have been walking to the excavation site as a result, Konyar said.

“The excavations have been ongoing for three months. Last month we made a contract with representatives of the Ministry of Culture and the Van Municipality, and they provided logistical support for the excavation. But after the new mayor was appointed, that support was cut without any notification,” said Konyar.

Konyar said they might be pushed to end the excavations, as the 80,000 lira ($13,774) allowance provided by the Ministry of Culture was not sufficient to cover all expenses.