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x0x Diyarbakir, city of culture and history

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Old February 23rd, 2004, 04:58 AM
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Default x0x Diyarbakir, city of culture and history

[See the following for more on Diyarbakir:
http://www.luwo.be/~anatolia/Diyarbakir.htm ]

x0x Diyarbakir, city of culture and history

* Urban sprawl has caused the population of Diyarbakir to increase
tenfold, destroying many things that made it special in the past

Serdar Alyamac

DIYARBAKIR - Turkish Daily News

Diyarbakir, the city of culture and history known as the cradle of
civilization, seems to have lost its past splendor. No matter how
succinctly the walls surrounding the city display its historical
importance, the street vendors at every corner, the coffee houses full of
the unemployed and the muddy streets of today bear testament to just how
far things have deteriorated.

During the 15 years of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terror, which
claimed approximately 35,000 lives, rural regions became a battleground
and people in the villages flocked to the city. With the capture of PKK
leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, the terrorism subsided, although
punctuated by sporadic outbreaks. However, this 15-year-long terror
resulted in a greater rate of migration to Diyarbakir as compared to other
regions in Turkey. Diyarbakir, the cultural and economic center of
southeastern Anatolia, suffered the most from this trend and its resulting
population increase destroyed many things that had made the city special.

Not long ago, when it had a population of 150,000, Diyarbakir was free of
terror, a place where people knew each other and had a high standard of
living. It was known as the "jewel of the East," but not anymore. There
are ample reasons for this transformation, among them the accelerating
infusion of migrants from rural communities and the lack of necessary
infrastructure and proper city planning to accomodate the incoming

Diyarbakir's history begins at the dawn of civilization. The city has been
considered vital during every historical period as it lies at the major
crossroads between Anatolia and Mesopotamia and between Europe and Asia.
Throughout history, it has variously been called Amida, Amid, Kara-Amid,
Diyar-Bekr, Diyarbekir and Diyarbakir.

Archeological studies have revealed that there were people living in caves
in the region in the Stone and Mesolithic Ages. The oldest village
community in Anatolia was found at Mt. Cayonu, near Ergani in Diyarbakir
province, extending back 10,000 years and indicating that Diyarbakir and
its environs have been home to many civilizations from that period
onwards. Since 3000 B.C., the city has been at various times controlled by
Assyrians, Aramites, Urartians, Iskits, Medians, Persians, Macedonians,
Selucians, Parthians, the Great Tigran administration, Romans, Sassanids,
Byzantines, Emevites, Abbasids, al Sheikhs, Hamdanians, Mervanians,
Seljuks, Inanogullari, Nisanogullari, Artuks, Eyyubids, Mongols, White
Sheep (Turks), Safevis and Ottomans. The civilizations that have
contributed the most to the city have been Roman, Abbasid, Mervani,
Seljuk, Artuk, Christian and Ottoman.

The most unique characteristic of the city are the walls that surround it,
fashioned out of chiseled basalt. While the walls, second only to the
Great Wall of China, are thought to have been constructed by the Hurrians,
who controlled the region around 3000 B.C., Roman Emperor Constantine
rebuilt and expanded them in A.D. 349. The originally 12-meter-high walls,
despite the deterioration of sections over the years, are considered the
tallest in the world. Their total length is close to five kilometers, with
a thickness of three to five meters. The walls surround the old city in
its entirety and bear inscriptions from 12 civilizations. The walls of
Diyarbakir received the most votes in a poll on an Internet site
established to uncover the "Seven Wonders of Anatolia."

The walls have a total of 82 towers, the most important of which are the
Seven Brothers and Evli Beden, built by the architect Yahya, son of
Ibrahim, in 1208 and sponsored by Artuk chief Melik Salih in honor of his
father. The builders of the oldest and tallest tower, Cat Tower, are not

The city is adorned with caravanseries, palaces, fountains, inns and
arches. As you walk around the walls, you come across a historic artifact
at every corner.

The city also has been home to many different religions over the
centuries. Before the advent of Islam, three religions dominated the
people of the region: Shemsis (sun worshipers), Jews and Christians.
Religious buildings constructed by the practicers of these religions,
while mostly in disrepair, are still standing around the city and include
the Virgin Mary Suryani Kadim Church, Keldani, Surp Gregos, Surp Sarkis
(Celtic church), Saint George (Kara Papaz), and Catholic and Protestant

The Virgin Mary Suryani Kadim Church is the only one still in use. While
the date of its construction is not known, its latest manifestation is the
result of an extensive renovation it received in the 18th century.

Islamic buildings are dotted about the city. One of the most significant
is Mar Tom, a large church that was converted into a mosque and is known
as Ulucami. The original date of construction of Ulucami, situated in the
city center, is unknown. Muslim Arabs, who captured the city in A.D. 639,
converted it into a mosque, one of the oldest in Anatolia.

Diyarbakir's houses have a special regional flavor. Homes made of black
basalt are closed to the outside. A hall greets you as you enter the front
door, followed by a courtyard with a pool. One of the rooms, known as the
"eyvan," opens onto the courtyard and is where families spend their summer
days due to the intense heat.

The narrow side streets in front of these houses are called "kuce." As the
urban population started to grow, the streets became even narrower. These
historical houses are being torn down, only to be replaced by apartments.

Even with all the cultural richness of the city, it is hard to say that
this legacy is being protected. When you add to this the unrestricted
exodus from rural communities, Diyabakir has become a migration center. In
a very short period of time, the population of the city has increased to
more than 1 million. Naturally, this has had an adverse effect urban life.
It appears that it will take a long time to instill a sense of urban
consciousness in the people who bring their village life to the cities.

__________________________________________________ ________________
Copyright 2004, Turkish Daily News. This article is redistributed with
permission for personal use of TRKNWS-L readers. No part of this article
may be reproduced, further distributed or archived without the prior
permission of the publisher. Contact: Turkish Daily News Online on the
Internet World Wide Web. www.turkishdailynews.com

For information on other matters please contact
__________________________________________________ ________________

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