The historical Diyarbakır city walls were listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2015, but now they could be removed from the list after potentially damaging restoration work.
Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and Diyarbakır Provincial Coordination Committee Secretary Doğan Hatun warned that the restoration work “might cause real damage to the city walls”. He said that if the restoration is not completed correctly, the walls could lose their position as a World Heritage Site.
UNESCO asked Turkey to prepare a master plan
The restoration work is due to finish in 500 days with a budget of more than 9 million Turkish lira. UCA Construction won the tender, and restoration has already started at Ben-u Sen and Yedi Kardeş watchtowers.
An association in Diyarbakır suggested renaming the 82 watchtowers using the names of cities in Turkey. Doğan Hatun criticised this and called it “cultural assimilation”.
“If a place is in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List, then UNESCO wants that place to be protected, including the names. You cannot change the names just for tourism, to make money out of it”.
UNESCO wanted Turkey to prepare a master plan for the restorations, said Hatun. “However, we do not know whether Turkey prepared that plan or not. We have not been informed, and we are really concerned about the future of the walls”.
Diyarbakır fortress was first built in 297 AD by Romans. The fortress was used and rebuilt during the Roman and Ottoman periods. The Diyarbakır city walls are 5200 metres long. There are both inner and outer walls, and the site also has several gates and towers. There are four main gates and 82 watchtowers on the walls.
During the war between the Turkish army and the Civil Protection Units (YPS) in 2015, the city walls were damaged. Roughly one third of the historic Old Town was destroyed by the Turkish army after the clashes ended, resulting in irreversible damage to the ancient city. Turkey is planning to finish the restoration of the historical fortress to attract tourists to the region.