Europa Nostra, the pan-European heritage federation that is the representative platform for over 200 heritage NGOs active throughout Europe, has launched a final appeal to halt the operation of Yortanlı Dam, pending a comprehensive plan for the safeguarding of the ancient site of Allianoi, near Bergama.
Allianoi's rescue excavation, which started in 1994, will stop when flooded by the waters of Yortanlı Dam. According to customary procedure, the State Waterworks Authority (DSİ) would have released water and flooded the ancient city; however, the İzmir Board of Monuments overruled the decision by designating the area a cultural and historical heritage site of the first degree and asked the DSİ to postpone the flooding and find a way to protect the cultural heritage of Allianoi before operating the dam.
Throughout history Allianoi was known as the land of the health god, Asklepion. Allianoi was established during the Hellenistic age and reached its peak in the second century under the rule of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Up until the 11th century, it was regarded as one of the world's most important health centers.
Europa Nostra President Otto von der Gablentz addressed an open letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and urged the Turkish government to prevent the impending destruction of the Roman baths at Allianoi.
"This appeal has been launched on the basis of mounting opposition against the flooding of Allianoi, both locally and internationally," said Gablentz. "Allianoi was declared a first degree archaeological site and flooding the site would thus constitute an illegal act. The Board of Monuments has therefore called for the postponement of the flooding, pending a report by the Culture and Tourism Ministry on adequate measures for the conservation of Allianoi."
"Allianoi bears witness to an important period of European history and forms part of our common European heritage. We sincerely hope that the Turkish government will find a way to safeguard Allianoi, confirming its determination to fully integrate the important objective of the conservation and enhancement of our common European heritage in its policies and priorities," stressed von der Gablentz in the letter.
The European Union has also joined the international campaign to save Allianoi. European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn has sent a letter about the issue to Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. In addition, Nikolaos Sifunakis, chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education, has written to the Turkish ambassador to the EU and raised the matter at the October Plenary Session of the European Parliament.
In September, Europa Nostra, together with ICOMOS and the European Association of Archaeologists, sent a letter to Ali Babacan, the Turkish minister of state for EU relations, and to other members of the Turkish government on this matter but to date has not yet received a reply explaining the position of the Turkish government. At the same time Europa Nostra launched an on-line campaign (www.europanostra.org/save_allianoi.html) seeking wider citizen support for the Allianoi appeal. This campaign continues to gain momentum, with supporting signatures received from 25 countries.