Vecdi Erbay / DUVAR

For the purpose of recording, keeping alive, and sharing the cultural and historical legacy of the southeastern, predominantly-Kurdish city of Diyarbakır throughout the ages, a number of civil society organizations have established the Diyarbakır’s Memory website, which features a number of exhibitions related to the city and its history. 

The project was launched by the Diyarbakır Cultural and Natural Preservation Board (DKVD) with the support of the Anadolu Kültür foundation. The website, which features sections in Turkish, Kurdish and English, includes five detailed exhibitions entitled “A City at the Crossroads of History,” “Maps: From Amida to Caramit,” “History as Recorded by Travellers,” “Diyarbakır as Told in Coins,” and “A Parenthesis in History: The Marwanids.” 

The latter exhibition focuses on the Kurdish dynasty that ruled the area between the 10th and 11th centuries, a particularly notable period in Diyarbakır’s history. 

“Historians highlight the Marwanid’s preference of a non-conflictual, pluralistic political rhetoric, enabling the coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups, within and outside their domain. This has resulted in the period being remembered as one of peace and harmony within many sources,” reads the text of the exhibition on the website. 

The Marwanid Dynasty was elemental in the construction and restoration of the already-historic city at the dawn of the millennium. The rule of Nasr Al-Dawa for 50 years during the 11th century saw significant development of infrastructure in the region. 

“He had multiple towers on the Amid (Diyarbakır) city walls either restored or reconstructed. In March 1056, he had a masjid (prayer room) built at the Mountain (Dağ) Gate entrance for the use of soldiers patrolling the wall,” the exhibition reads.

Commonly referred to by Kurds as Amed, the name Diyarbakir was made official following the establishment of the Turkish republic, but throughout the years alternate names were used for the city by geographers, travelers and soldiers on various maps, including Amida, Amed, Amid, Kara Amid, and Diyarbekir. Kurdish politicians who have used the name Amed when referring to the city have been accused of separatism, but it is among the city’s oldest names. 

The “Diyarbakır as Told in Coins” exhibition displays a variety of the coins minted in the city in different periods of rule by different empires and rulers over the course of a millennium: 

“The minting of coins here for nearly a thousand years without interruption is but one indication that Diyarbakır has retained its importance throughout the ages. The issuance of gold coins by great dynasties demonstrates the city’s political weight, but also provides significant present-day proof as to the dynamism of its economic life,” the text of that exhibition reads.

The “History as Recorded by Travelers” includes the observations of a number of travelers who visited the city centuries ago, including a particularly interesting excerpt from the geographer Al-Maqdisi, who compared Diyarbakır to the southern city of Antakya, historically known as Antioch. 

“A city with a beautiful, sturdy and interesting structural style, Amid bore great resemblance to Antioch. It had outer walls that looked like a large platform, studded with gates and turrets. Between the outer walls and the citadel lay an empty stretch. Yet Amid was smaller in size than Antioch. The city walls were of hard black stone. The foundations of houses were also built of this stone,” al-Maqdisi wrote in the year 985. 

“Diyarbakır’s Memory” is counting on contributions in order to create an environment that preserves and keeps alive the city’s rich history and culture, for the purpose of transmitting these memories to future generations. For those wanting to share documents from special collections pertaining to the history’s city, culture and architecture, they can get in touch through the info@diyarbakirhafizasi.org email address.