The walls of Diyarbakır surround the city with 82 towers. The citadel and walls of the city have been added to UNESCO’s Tentative List, which is the first step toward being nominated for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Some residents use the surviving walls, made of basalt rock from the extinct Karacadağ volcano, as shelter for their animals. In the area of İçkale in particular, it is common to see horses at the doors, goats and chickens at the windows and straw bags on the ancient stones.
As there are hopes that the Diyarbakır citadel and the walls will spur a tourism boom in the future, animal breeding on the historic sites poses a big problem, according to the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality’s deputy secretary-general, Abdullah Sevinç. “Unfortunately, we face this problem because most of the residents here make their living through animal breeding,” he told the Anatolia news agency. The residents, on the other hand, claim they protect the site from becoming a haven for drug addicts, saying, “The municipality notified us that we must leave.”
The Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality has launched an urban transformation project to protect the walls in the İçkale area, Sevinç said. The project is being carried out in cooperation with the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ), the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office and the municipality of the city’s Sur district, where İçkale is located.
Sevinç noted that they initiated works to expropriate 150,000 square meters of land and they have managed to open 113,000 square meters to the public thus far, at a cost of TL 3 million.
A total of 2,200 buildings have to be demolished for the complete restoration of the historic sites, Sevinç highlighted, continuing: “The restoration work is also very important. It is estimated that we need about TL 130 million to TL 150 million for that. The restoration of monumental structures is maintained by the Foundations General Directorate, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the relevant municipalities. For both the cleaning and restoration of the walls, TL 500 million is needed in total. Once the citadels are renovated, Diyarbakır will see a boom in tourism, history and culture.”
Recalling that the walls are under the patronage of President Abdullah Gül, Sevinç said if the historic walls and citadels can make it to the UNESCO World Heritage List, Diyarbakır will attract millions of tourists.