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Turkey Accused as Bulldozers Flatten Part of Ancient Greek City

Assos Greek ancient theater, Turkey
The Ancient Greek theater of Assos, the city from antiquity that was demolished by the Turkish authorities. Credit: Wikipedia

Environmentalists and nature lovers on Friday protested Turkey’s flattening of an ancient Greek city as part of a “rehabilitation” initiative. Assos, in the northwestern province of Çanakkale, Turkey, has been going through “landscape works.”

A massive hill at the port of Assos has been carved, converting the verdant habitat of the region into dust, which has caused an uproar from nature lovers. Environmentalists clamored for legal help, but hotel owners in the region supported the landscape project, saying, “Rocks from the hills fall on people on rainy days.”

The harbor city of Assos is an ancient place located in the village of Behramkale, about 17 kilometers (11 miles) from Çanakkale’s Ayvacık district. The city, founded some 3,000 years ago, has been known as a famous teaching center since antiquity.

“Rehabilitation” of ancient Greek city in Turkey ongoing

Some time ago, rehabilitation work started on the hill of the ancient city’s port with heavy equipment carving up the area, which is rich in green habitat. The ancient city still serves as a port for the Troad, the Biga Peninsula in the northwestern part of Anatolia, Turkey.

Two environmental organizations, the Friends of Assos and the Protection of Natural and Cultural Properties in Mount Ida Society, made an effort to stop the “landscaping” works, uploading photos of the region before and after the work on social media.

The photos immediately drew the attention of nature lovers, who came out in support of the two organizations. “Things done with heavy equipment at Assos completely contradicts the European Landscape Pact, which has been in force since 2003,” archaeologist Nezih Başgelen says.

“The region flattened with bulldozers is an archaeological and protected site,” said Cem Tüzün, an official from Friends of Assos. “This is a culture extermination,” he added.

Environmentalists vs. hoteliers

However, the business owners in the region disagree. Erdal Çakır, the head of the Assos Hotel Owners Association,” said: “Five years ago, rocks fell from the hill on a vehicle and the roof of a hotel. Human life is under risk.”

Reiterating that there is an official report highlighting this risk, Çakır asked: “Does anybody want that someone gets killed here?”

But Tüzün, unlike Çakır, wants the project to stop to save the habitat. “The project comprises of landscape on six parts. Unfortunately, three parts have been damaged; we are trying to save the remaining three,” he said.

Süheyla Doğan, another environmentalist, posed two questions to the authorities. “If rocks fell, why didn’t you think of an easier solution, such as installing barbed wires? Is it true that amid the excavation work, an ancient temple was found under the soil?”

Agreeing with the criticisms and frustration that the landscape has started looking ugly because of the works, Çakır said: “The vegetation cover is gone, and it looks ugly, yes. But, it will gain its charms after the landscape work.”

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