Residents flee ancient Turkish town before dam waters rise

In an ancient Turkish town, the Ozturk family are packing up and selling their livestock as they prepare to uproot to government-built housing across the Tigris River.

They don't have a choice.

They are among around 3,000 residents of the town of Hasankeyf who are being forced to leave to make way for a new dam.

The project has been two decades in the making and will generate electricity for southeast Turkey.

Waters will soon submerge the town and take 12,000 years of history with them.

Many residents, like Kerem Ozturk, feel they're also losing their livelihoods.

"They took our place from us", he says. "They are forcing us to sell our herd."

Eight historic relics have been moved to the new town, including a massive tomb, an ancient Turkish bath and a historic mosque.

Some structures will remain under water.

This is what the new town will look like.

While the houses may look pristine from the outside, some residents complain they are cheaply made and leak water.

In July, Turkey finally started to fill the dam further downstream on the Tigris where villages have already been vacated and are now partially submerged.

Water is expected to start rising in Hasankeyf in the next few months.


Activists say the dam, once completely filled, will have displaced 78,000 people from 199 surrounding villages, and could risk creating water shortages downstream in Iraq.