The Diyarbakır Chamber of Architects has released a report identifying serious issues with the redevelopment of Diyarbakir’s historic Sur district, which involves missing or severely damaged registered historical relics and structures and new construction that is not befitting of the historic area.
A large section of Sur was destroyed following armed conflicts between militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces after a peace process between the government and the PKK in 2015. Six neighborhoods in Sur that were the center of these skirmishes has been inaccessible from December 2015 to the present. Sur, which is the Turkish word for city wall, gets its name from the ancient basalt walls that surround the neighborhood, and it is a protected historical site.
In spite of that, the Diyarbakır Chamber of Architects has criticized what it refers to as profit-oriented development in the area engineered by Ankara that is not in harmony with the historic character of the quarter.
According to the report, 49 well-protected historic structures in the area are currently missing, while nearly 100 have sustained severe damage. Despite lack of permission of entry into area, it was determined that excavations around a number of structuers were conducted for the purpose of treasure hunting, resulting in the destruction of structures.
Based on satellite images, while there was a heavy presence of tanks and artillery during the fighting that caused damage, the actual destruction was primarily caused by construction equipment after the skirmishes came to an end. The report indicated that these demolitions were not conducted under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture.
While much of the Sur district, including the main street and historic areas popular among locals, was not harmed, satellite images show that a huge segment of the district was almost entirely flattened. Following the collapse of the peace process in 2015, a number of other districts and cities in southeastern Turkey with majority Kurdish populations experienced extensive conflict and destruction.
The development for the area devised in 2016 drastically changed the borders of blocks, parcels and streets have have been protected for hundreds of years, uniting them for the purpose of building commercial structures, resulting in the complete destruction of the authenticity, integrity and the historic makeup of the streets, according to the report.
The chamber also noted out that in its report the new buildings that are being built in the area with the facade of basalt, not the actual basalt stone that characterizes the area, and are thus not in accordance with its historical quality.
Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was criticized after saying that the government was going to turn Sur into ‘Toledo’, referring to the historic city in central Spain.