The Creek that Lost its Spirit
No matter whether motivated by necessity or not, the notion of individuals or entities that have no material or spiritual relation to a place coming in and treating its land and water that others have been born and grown up around, bonded with and existed within the culture it has engendered, as nothing but material gain, has always felt foreign to me. The devastation of a river flowing in its bed in a valley formed over maybe millions of years by the construction of dams that have a lifespan of at most one or two centuries is one of the greatest injustices wrought upon nature. It is as great an injustice to people who live there, embedded in that nature, with their faiths and culture shaped accordingly. Already carrying this awareness, witnessing such injustice perpetrated in Dersim, my homeland, inspired me to undertake this project.

The people I encountered while passing through the Peri (‘Fairy’) Valley on my way from Diyarbakır to Dersim on a summer’s day in 2012, raising their voices against the destruction of their landscape through new dams in the works, were unable to prevent their completion despite the various demonstrations they held throughout the process. The Peri (‘Fairy’) Creek passing through 4 provinces (Erzurum, Bingöl, Elazığ, Tunceli) and 9 districts to merge with Munzur is one the most important tributaries of the Euphrates. Rumour has it that this branch of the river came to be called the ‘Fairy Creek’ because it used to swell and flow raucously especially in the spring making the area’s inhabitants think that fairies and pixies came upon the creek at night. Peri Creek and the ecosystem of the valley it winds through have been altered irredeemably by the 6 dams and hydroelectric plant built upon it. Hearing over the years that difficulties suffered in the region in the wake of the construction of these dams were piling up fueled me on. The impact created by the dams, the natural devastation wrought in the valley and what people suffered as a result came to constitute the scope of the project.

I went to the village of Harik in 2015 for the first time in order to see the difficulties experienced with the completion of the dams and the retention of water. I started talking with people and taking photographs. I then continued visiting the villages between the Pembelik and Seyrantepe Dams, photographing the impacts of these dams, but later had to stop for a while due to escalating tensions in the region. Following a three-year pause I resumed my photo shoots with restricted permissions I ended up having to take for security reasons.

The fields of villagers, whose livelihood depended on agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as their homes and most roads, were submerged in water. Some of those left homeless were placed in container homes and empty school buildings, while others were left with no choice but to migrate albeit unwillingly. The dams complicated living conditions in villages even further, engulfing a large amount of the fertile agricultural areas and leaving behind mostly barren land. People’s loss of their past, their memories, sites of faith and graves, their repeated experience of this loss brought about a psychological and spiritual collapse.
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