Much of Diyarbakır’s heritage destroyed, archaeologists say

Many archaeological and historical sites have been destroyed in the ancient heart of Diyarbakır, the biggest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast and home to two UNESCO world heritage sites, Diken news website quoted members of the Turkish Archaeologists Association as saying.

Fighting broke out in late 2015 when Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) armed separatists dug trenches and erected barricades in the narrow winding streets of Sur. The armed forces responded with tank and artillery fire and crushed the revolt. Much of the area has since been demolished for redevelopment to include wider streets and new police stations.

On a visit to Sur, the head of the Turkish Archaeologists Association Istanbul branch, Yiğit Özar, said there had been destruction instead of reconstruction in Sur, where members of the association had been invited for a “No to the Destruction of Sur” platform.

“We have seen that there has been destruction and rebuilding work instead of restoration in the conflict areas, which had seen a great amount of destruction. As a result, many registered cultural assets, including the street structure, which belonged to the Hellenistic Roman-era, have completely been destroyed in five neighbourhoods,” Özar was quoted as saying. “We have serious doubts regarding the losses and what happened to the historical artefacts that rose to the surface during the diggings.”

Özar also said that the historic fabric of the city had been damaged so badly that it would be hard to restore it both structurally and demographically.

“After the conflicts, the Field Management Department was not allowed to carry out detection in the area,” Özar said.

The black basalt defensive walls, dating back to the Roman era that surround Sur, and the Hevsel gardens that connect it with the River Tigris are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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