Figen Çeliktürk, assistant general secretary of the Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce (GTO), cites the areas' close proximity and “symbiotic relationship” as reasons for the new partnership. “Our goal is to dynamically promote these three areas' castles, museums and other areas of interest to tourists,” Çeliktürk stated, adding that the project is aimed at “boosting the region's tourism, and in turn aiding economic and social development.” The secretary general explained that his organization will join forces with Gaziantep Private Management (GIOI), the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce (ACC) and the Kilis Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KTSO), who together plan to allocate around TL 185,000 to the project.
The main focus of the “Witness” project will be the development of a website where Çeliktürk claims that “visitors will enter the castles and museums on virtual tours.” According to his and his partners' plans, the website will also include a guide that can suggest restaurants and hotels and provide detailed maps for travelers. The site is designed to attract visitors from around the world and is presently being prepared in English, Turkish and Arabic. According to Çeliktürk, the website will be successful if it conveys to prospective tourists the region's unique historical character. To this end, Çeliktürk added that the group is even thinking about producing and distributing an interactive DVD.
The border region that Çeliktürk and his business partners hope to promote is indeed rich in history, and the public has enjoyed many of its most famous landmarks for decades. The Aleppo Citadel, a massive fortress that is deemed to be the best surviving example of Ayyubid architecture, became a popular tourist destination after it was restored in the late 1970s. Gaziantep Castle, one of the most extensive and oldest in Turkey, was restored and opened to the public in 1989. Despite the popularity of well-known attractions, however, much about the region remains unknown. Thought to have been inhabited continuously for six millennia, the region and its lost past are slowly being uncovered by archaeologists. Recently, the ruins of an Ottoman-era bathhouse and mosque were unearthed in a dig near Gaziantep Castle.
Çeliktürk remains confident that efforts to explore the past will be crucial to the region's future. Explaining what he hopes to gain from the project, he asserts that “the most important principle of the project we've undertaken is that it revitalizes tourism and supports economic and social development.”