Last Updated on May 19, 2022 by Kurdish Heritage
About this monument
DIYARBAKIR FORTRESS AND HEVSEL GARDENS CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (Kurdish: Sûra Amedê û Baxçeyên Hewselê) is an UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Kurdistan’s Amed Province, corresponding with South-Eastern Turkey’s Diyarbakir province. This cultural landscape is located in the city of Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of a would-be “Greater Kurdistan”.
The Kurds call this city “Amed”, which is derived from its ancient form “Amida”. The city’s history dates back to at least 3000 BCE and is believed to have been founded by the Hurrians, whom are among the ancestors of the Kurds.
Amed’s incredibly rich history is reflected in its many monuments. The most striking are its ancient black basalt stone city walls, which can be divided into two sections, namely: the Outer Walls encircling the Old Town, and the Inner Walls, which encircles the Citadel (in turn located within the Old Town).
The total length of the city walls is 6.4 kilometers, making it one of the world’s largest and best preserved. There are 83 towers and four main gates into the Old Town. The towers differ in style. Most are circular and up to five floors high, but there are several rare Roman-era square towers left. The current structure largely dates back to Amed’s Kurdish Marwanid and Ayyubid dynasties.
The Hevsel Gardens are seven hundred acres of cultivated, fertile fields on the city’s outskirts, near the Tigris River. First mentioned in the 9th century BCE, the Hevsel Gardens have played a key role in keeping this important Mesopotamian city provisioned at times of war and during peace. To this day, the gardens continue to provide crops, while also serving as a popular retreat from bustling city life.
People flock to the 11th century Tigris Bridge (Kurdish: Pira Dehderî) during sultry summer evenings, from where one has magnificent views of the rising city walls. Amed, the “Black Pearl on the Tigris”, truly upholds the title of “Keleha Kurdan” – Fortress of the Kurds.
Destruction by the Turkish State
In the 1930s, the Turkish State began demolishing the walls. Turkish State officials claimed the city walls were “preventing the good people of Diyarbakir from getting fresh air“. Fortunately, French archaeologist ALBERT LOUIS GABRIEL was there to intervene and managed to halt the demolition in time.
In 2015, the city’s residents rose up against the Turkish State and declared Amed, along with many other Kurdish cities, as liberated autonomous zones. In the heavy fighting that ensued, Amed’s Old Town District, Sur, suffered heavy damages. However, most of the damage was done after the fighting. Over one-third of Amed’s UNESCO-listed Old Town was deliberately destroyed by the Turkish State, erasing a core part of the city’s historic texture.
The United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and various other NGOs, journalists, and political organizations have widely reported on the massive, deliberate destruction of Kurdish and Armenian heritage caused by the Turkish State, as well as the indiscriminate killing of hundreds of civilians. Some of these reports can be found in the “Biography, Links & Further Reading” section on the bottom of this page.
Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and meets the following selection criteria:
To be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, historic or natural sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage.
UNESCO criteria can be cultural and/or natural; the first six criteria are cultural and applicable to historic sites such as architectural structures and archaeological sites. The last four criteria are applicable to natural sites, such as national parks. Sites that meet both cultural and natural criteria are called “mixed sites”, for example ancient rock paintings.
Before a historic or natural site is inscribed on UNESCO’s permanent list, it has to be included on a State Party’s Tentative List. State Parties will submit a historic or natural site for nomination and justify the site’s “outstanding universal value” based on the criteria they believe the site meets. Often times, they will compare the to-be-nominated site to sites already inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A site has to be successfully tentatively listed before it can be inscribed on UNESCO’s (permanent) World Heritage List.
On Kurdish-Heritage.org, we list all the criteria a heritage site in Kurdistan or a Kurd-related heritage site outside of Kurdistan meets. We have added these criteria and UNESCO’s official (brief) explanation to the tabs on this page to make understanding and navigating between them a little bit easier.
to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Kurdistan is a geo-cultural region wherein the Kurdish people have historically formed a prominent majority population, and where Kurdish culture, language, and identity have historically been based. Contemporary use of “Kurdistan” refers to parts of Eastern- and South-Eastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), Northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), North-Western Iran (Eastern Kurdistan) and Northern Syria (Western Kurdistan) inhabited mainly by Kurds.
The Kurds have greatly shaped Middle-Eastern and European history, politics, and culture and have at times ruled over vast parts of the Middle-East, such as during the Kurdish Ayyubid Dynasty, immortalized in European and Middle-Eastern consciousness by its founder Sultan Saladin (Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub al-Kurdi / Selahedînê Eyûbî).
Because of Kurdish migrations, Kurd-related heritage, including many UNESCO-listed monuments, can be found outside of the historic Kurdish homeland, in particular in Egypt and the Levant Region, where the Kurds built many defensive fortifications in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Currently, there are two autonomous Kurdish regions in the Middle-East. One is located in Northern Iraq and has full international recognition as an autonomous region. In fact, often being treated as a separate state altogether. This autonomous region is known by several names, including: “The Kurdistan Regional Government”, “The Kurdistan Region”, “Southern Kurdistan”, “Iraqi Kurdistan”, and “the KRG”. The other autonomous Kurdish region is younger and located in Northern Syria. This autonomous region is commonly known as Rojava, but also as Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
This map is an estimation of UNESCO inscribed, tentatively listed, and eligible monuments within Kurdistan and of Kurd-related monuments outside of the historic Kurdish homeland. UNESCO monuments that are located within Kurdistan are not persé related to Kurds; Kurdistan is “the cradle of civilization”, and as such, many civilizations have left their marks there.
As of 19 September 2021;
there are 25 tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 11 permanent UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the borders of Kurdistan. In addition, two (2) cities are listed within UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. Furthermore, there are nine (9) Kurd-related tentative and eight (8) Kurd-related permanent UNESCO World Heritage Sites outside of Kurdistan (elsewhere in the Middle-East). In total: 34 tentative and 20 permanent UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus two (2) cities, putting the total at 56. This does not include a vast sea of historic and natural sites that are eligible for UNESCO-inscription.
|Name||Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape|
|Name (KURDISH: Kurmancî)||Sûra Amedê û Baxçeyên Hewselê|
|Name (KURDISH: Soranî)||قەڵای ئامەد|
|Place Name (KURDISH: Kurmancî)||Amed|
|Place Name (KURDISH: Soranî)||ئامەد|
|Date of Monument||3000 BCE – 1260 AD|
|Region||Northern Kurdistan (Bakurê Kurdistanê)|
|Province||Diyarbakir / Amed|
|Type||UNESCO World Heritage Sites|
|Type||Parks and Gardens|
|Subtype||Registered World Heritage Site|
|Subtype||Castles and Fortresses|
|Subtype||City Walls, Towers and Gates|
|Monument Status||Largely Intact / Partially Ruined|
|Dynasty / Period||Marwanid|
|Dynasty / Period||Ayyubid|
|Dynasty / Period||Median|
|Dynasty / Period||Sassanid|
|Dynasty / Period||Roman|
|Dynasty / Period||Byzantine|
|Dynasty / Period||Hurrian|
|UNESCO Status||Inscribed (Permanent List)|
|UNESCO Criteria||iv (cultural)|
|Date of Inscription||2015-06-28|
|Last Kurdish-Heritage.org Update||2021-11-22|
|Bibliography, Links & Further Reading|
*Sur is Diyarbakir's Old Town District.
|Photo Album||flickr | Amed (Photos of the Old Town)|
|UNESCO.org Listing Page||UNESCO.org | Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape|