In Turkey / Türkiye
The Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) and other union, women’s and ecological organisations have criticised UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and said it has lost its credibility regarding the protection of cultural and natural assets in Turkey and Kurdistan. They have decided to hold a counter forum ahead of UNESCO’s upcoming meeting in Istanbul.
Kursunlu Mosque in Sur district of Diyarbakir city, easter Turkey is heavily damaged by Turkish army attacks (Getty Images)

Kursunlu Mosque in Sur district of Diyarbakir city, easter Turkey is heavily damaged by Turkish army attacks (Getty Images)

The organisations holding a counter forum issued a written statement saying, “The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which claims that everything on its World Heritage List is the shared heritage of humanity, will hold its 40th meeting in Istanbul on July 10-20, 2016. The international meeting is scheduled to start with the 2015 report of the World Heritage Committee, and participants will discuss whether assets on the World Heritage List are being protected or not, and determine strategies for the protection of those that are under risk. Temporary lists will be prepared or the assets that are proposed additions to the list, and the World Cultural and Natural Heritage List will be updated. The Turkish government, which has contributed to the destruction of natural and cultural assets – registered in the heritage list or not – will be hosting the 40th meeting of UNESCO.”

The organisers of the counter forum stated that, “despite the fact that the meeting will be held in Istanbul, the destruction of the historical fabric of this city – which has been on the heritage list since 1985 – due to the capital groups’ pressure of construction and tourism will not be discussed. The destruction of historical neighborhoods in Süleymaniye for urban transformation projects, the surrender of old neighborhoods such as Ayvansaray and Sulukule to construction firms, and the destruction of forests and wetlands for the sake of ‘crazy – mega’ projects will not be addressed during the meeting.”

‘UNESCO silent during war and destruction’

Damaged interior of Kursunlu Mosque in Sur, Diyarbakir (Getty Images)

Damaged interior of Kursunlu Mosque in Sur, Diyarbakir (Getty Images)

The organisers of the ‘What is UNESCO protecting?’ forum emphasised UNESCO’s silence during the destruction of natural and cultural assets on its list, and said that those that damage the assets cannot protect them. The organisers stated that the destruction of the Kurşunlu Mosque, Four-legged Minaret, churches and centuries old living spaces inside Diyarbakır (Amed in Kurdish) city walls and Hevsel Gardens which are on the World Heritage List will be ignored during the UNESCO meeting, just like the flooding and destruction of the ancient archaeological site Hasankeyf in Kurdish city Batman.

The HDK and other organisations also criticised UNESCO’s decision to honour the mayor of Istanbul with a medal for his personal contribution to the protection of cultural heritage, They recalled the mayor’s role in the land filling of one million square meters of sea in Istanbul, which has a history of 8,500 years, as well as the destruction of other historical sites.

The organisers of the counter forum expressed their lack of trust in UNESCO’s claim to independently protect the cultural and natural heritage of the world.

UNESCO was criticised by Kurdish organisations for its silence during the siege and military lockdown in Diyarbakır’s historic Sur neigbourhood, which was destroyed by security forces between 2015 and 2016.

The above report was based on reporting on ANF News.


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