Hevsel Gardens, together with Diyarbakır Fortress, are located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır (Amed) and are listed as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Having played an important role in many civilizations dating back to the Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Artuqid, Seljuk and Ottoman periods, Hevsel Gardens lies in an area of 700 hectares and has been a source of income for many farmers for generations.
Farmers in Hevsel Gardens have also been the caretakers of this natural and cultural heritage site and have refused to leave the Gardens, despite all the financial hardships they have faced over the years, ANF reports.
Hacı Sular, one of these farmers, feels organically attached to these lands. “I have lived within these Gardens since my schildhood. I have been here for all the 66 years of my life, but in certain periods I had to stay in the town due to my health problems. Yet, I returned and feel healthy here. I find peace in Hevsel Gardens,” he said.
Living in a small cottage he built for himself in Hevsel Gardens, the Kurdish farmer lives with his dogs, rabbits, sheep and poultry in harmony with nature. “In the past, we used to grow all kinds of vegetables here such as rucola, parsley, radish and carrots, but today, we cannot grow vegetables because we cannot sell them,” he said.
In the past, in all corners of Hevsel Gardens, one could see farmers and many kinds of vegetables and fruits being grown and harvested, and Diyarbakır’s famous watermelons could be seen in every corner of the Gardens. Sular talks about the old days with great longing.
“The banks of the Tigris were full of farmers’ cottages in the past, but now, no one is able to grow anything here. Farmers from Hevsel Gardens cannot make ends meet anymore, because there are no buyers for their produce,” he said.
The devastating impacts of the curfews in Diyarbakır in 2015 and 2016 that hit the city in many ways can still be felt even in this context, he said.
“After Suriçi was destroyed, the market we would sell our products in was also destroyed. We used to go to Suriçi and sell our products there ourselves, without any mediators. But now, growing and selling a product causes us to lose money in the end, so many farmers have not been able to sustain themselves financially anymore,” he said.
“Our homes were also destroyed as well. They threw us out on the streets.”