Whose Job is Hasankeyf?

Targeting the Funders
After the refusal of Austria, Switzerland and Germany to grant export credit for the construction of the Ilısu dam project and Turkey’s explicit determination to continue the project, local funders, especially banks, play a key role. Big financial institutes, like Akbank and Garanti Bankası, have become major targets of protest campaigns led by local institutions such as Doğa Derneği (“Nature League”). One of the latest PR assaults is a parody of a recent TV ad by Garanti Bankası, where a young boy explains how banks help set up new businesses by granting credits to those “who don’t have money” and thus indirectly help create jobs, eventually also for his jobless older brother. In Doğa Derneği’s parody, the bank helps unscrupulous companies build dams, because “they don’t have money”. The message is clear: The banks are to be morally blamed in the Ilısu controversy.

Here’s the video clip and an English translation below:

“2010’s Biggest Wish

My only wish for 2010 is that Hasankeyf shouldn’t have to disappear. For this purpose, it would be good if we all look well after the money at our bank.

Hasankeyf is very beautiful. It’s one of mankind’s oldest settlements. There is a vast amount of animals in its surroundings that are facing extinction.

There are companies that want to build a dam and drown Hasankeyf in water. But they haven’t got any money. Those companies consult a bank. The bank they consult is seemingly environmentalist. But it’s not. We and our heritage of thousands of years are of no importance to them. They put our lives in danger. If Hasankeyf doesn’t drown in 2010, I’ll be very happy. My other friends too.


Rafet is right. Saving Hasankeyf is Garanti‘s job. We’re being fooled like children. If the bank asks you “Do you have another wish?” [Garanti Bankasi’s slogan], don’t wait to answer. Tell them to keep their hands off Hasankeyf.”

Who’s to be held responsible?
The withdrawal of European support for the Ilısu project has caused an interesting discursive shift in the Ilısu story. The dams of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (Güneyanadolu Projesi, GAP) are being constructed and run according to the Build Operate Transfer (BOT) scheme: Private companies invest in state projects with means of finances and material and obtain the right to run and capitalize on the dam (in most cases through the production of electricity). The construction of the Birecik Dam 1996-2001 has been funded by a private consortium consisting mainly of German companies. During my field work 2009/10, in which I mainly focussed on orally conveyed narratives surrounding the dam and its impacts on a local settlement, moral blames adressed to foreign profiteers (in this case often simply called “the Germans” [Almanlar]) were not uncommon. Apart from this local context, the same morally blamable role is often being ascribed to the World Bank. But now, what happens if local actors take up the role of the evil profiteer? This had already been the case once before Hasankeyf: In the course of the construction of the biggest dam of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, the Atatürk Dam,, the World Bank refused to provide the necessary financial support, strongly determined Turkey decided to carry the costs with its own national economy. I find it very interesting that the role of the financer/profiteer is morally laden to an extent that – as in this mock ad – responsibility is explicitly ascribed. At no point stately actors are being mentioned, although GAP is a state-run organization and its the DSI (national water administration, Devlet Su İşleri) that has been showing the strong determination to carry out the GAP Master Plan ever since.

This entry was posted in Environmentalism, NGOs, Organizations, Turkey, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

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