Kurdish play to tell story of Hasankeyf, an ancient city underwater

A new Kurdish play will display the story of Hasankeyf, the ancient southeastern Turkey town that was completely submerged underwater with the construction of the Ilısu Dam. The main character of the one-man show will be Hasankeyf itself.

Ferhat Yaşar / DUVAR

The ancient town of Hasankeyf, submerged underwater in March with the reserves of Ilısu Dam, will be brought to life in a new Kurdish play titled "Keypa12500."

The 12,000-year-old settlement has been threatened by the dam project since the 50s, and a mythology of "Hasankeyf will sink underwater" has been a prominent narrative for a long time, play member Egît Fırat said. 

"It wasn't a shock when it happened, but it still hurt. Like a love ache."

Fırat says that he hopes for audience members to self reflect during the play, and to ask themselves if there was anything they could have done as a witness to Hasankeyf's disappearance. 

Although Kurdish theater has a smaller audience, it allows for native Kurdish speakers to emote in their mother tongue as viewers, Fırat added. 

"Kurds should hold onto Kurdish tight. They should watch a play twice if need be, and feel those sentiments in their mother tongue. Each language brings about its own set of emotions."

Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast is rich with history and mythology, the play's writer Tuncay Özel noted, which is why they were encouraged to put Hasankeyf's story in a body of work.

“It's like the state is mocking the Kurds, it's not possible to alter a community's memory anymore. I had to put that struggle on stage. Why do theater if we can't tell speak of our own issues?"

The main character of the one-person play will be Hasankeyf itself, and the ancient town will tell its story itself, the author added. 

The play will start to be performed on Nov. 27 in Istanbul's Su Performance Center.