Vecdi Erbay / DUVAR

The appointed governor of Diyarbakır, Münir Karaloğlu, announced that the city signed an agreement with a contractor for the restoration of its ancient basalt walls that surround the historic center. But local architects, who have not been informed about the project, are concerned that the restoration could be a disaster. 

It is known that the historic Diyarbakır city walls have been neglected. It is known as well that restoration and rehabilitation initiatives carried out in the city have not been done by preserving the original and authentic structure and have caused destruction. 

For example, UNESCO, which included the historical walls of Diyarbakır on its 2015 World Heritage List, appointed experts to inspect the restoration works. Restoration of the walls started in 2014, and the report prepared by the expert that came to the city determined that the restoration work destroyed the archaeological traces of the walls. 

Via the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, UNESCO halted the restoration. UNESCO requested the establishment of a scientific committee in order to conserve and preserve the walls in lieu of restoration. 

Diyarbakır Chamber of Architects co-chair Selma Aslan said that the local government has not been transparent with the details of the project and has not shared any information about the bidding process with the public. 

“It should be noted that as an institution that is sensitive about all of the problems of this city, especially in the field of architecture, asking our opinions and contributing within the framework of our technical expertise would be important. However, unfortunately, especially after the appointed trustees, institutions do not share information on many issues, including this project,” Aslan said. 

Diyarbakır architects are worried that a government-led restoration of the city's ancient basalt walls could be a disaster.

Diyarbakır is one of several dozen cities that have had democratically-elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) removed from office following the local elections in April of last year, replaced with appointed trustees by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

“We do not know who prepared these projects but we think they were done by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism with the approval of the Diyarbakır Protection Board. We know as much about the issue as the public does. In order to prepare restoration projects, it is necessary to meet certain qualification conditions, and we have not yet learned by which institution or person the projects were prepared,” Aslan said. 

In recent years, a number of botched restoration projects of important historical landmarks have made the news in Turkey. 

“We are witnessing restoration work in some periods that ends very badly and causes serious damage to the structures. We can say that the main reason for this is that the tenders are awarded to people who are not competent in these areas,” Aslan said. 

HDP deputy asks Urbanization Minister why gov’t has not notified NGOs of restoration project

Meanwhile HDP Diyarbakır deputy Remziye Tosun submitted a parliamentary question asking Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum why the government has not taken the opinions of people and NGOs with regards to the restoration project.

“What is the reason why Diyarbakır Chamber of Architects has not been notified about the restoration works of Diyarbakır City Walls, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List?” Tosun asked.

“What is the reason why opinions of people and NGOS are not taken during the bidding process of the restoration of Diyarbakır City Walls?” Tosun also asked.