Crumbling in parts, majestic in others, the thick stone walls that cleave through this bustling city in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast region have for centuries held invaders at bay.

Now, Diyarbakir's basalt fortifications are expected to lure droves of tourists as a bloody 15-year insurgency in the region led by rebels of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) begins to wind down.

Smoke-spewing kebab stalls, rickety cow sheds and massive piles of garbage are being rapidly cleared away in line with ambitious government plans to restore the walls to their former glory.

Elsewhere, new five-star hotels, amusement parks, Internet cafes and a shopping mall are changing the face of this remote city, 400 miles southeast of Ankara, which convulsed until recently with political violence.

"The clashes are all but over, the PKK is obeying [captured leader Abdullah] Ocalan's orders to withdraw from Turkey," said Cemil Serhatli, Diyarbakir's governor. Serhatli, whose office has donated $20,000 to restore the walls, said "developing tourism is among our chief targets."

Stretching for more than three miles, and possessing 82 defensive towers, Diyarbakir's walls were probably first erected around 2000 B.C. by a northern Mesopotamian civilization known as the Hurrians, archaeologists agree.

They were expanded to their present size in 346 A.D. under the Roman Emperor Constantius II, according to Halil Degertekin, a professor at Diyarbakir's Dicle University, who is leading the restoration.

The worst damage occurred in the early 1930s, when city officials blasted away huge sections of the walls, believing this would allow winds to blow through the city and cool its blazing summer temperatures, Degertekin said. The practice stopped only after French archaeologist Albert Louis Gabriel convinced them of their folly.

Elaborate Arabic and Persian inscriptions shed light on the city's conquest in 639 A.D. by the Muslim warrior Khalid Ibn Walid, who would probably have disapproved of plans to convert one of the walls' cavernous cisterns into a disco.

But tourism is not the only concern driving restoration efforts. At least two people were killed last year after chunks of the wall caved in and crushed them. The deaths were blamed on Kurdish villagers displaced by the fighting who built huts using stones pulled from the walls.

Many sprang up in Diyarbakir's Ben-u-san slum, a hotbed of Kurdish nationalism, which skirts the southern section of the walls.

According to Degertekin, the government plans call for gardens along the walls. This will require destroying the huts of 1,000 families, including that of Ahmet Kilic, a Kurdish youth, and his mother.

"To hell with the tourists," Kilic said. "Where are we supposed to go?"

Nowhere, insists Cezair Serin, mayor of Diyarbakir's Surici district, which includes Ben-u-san.

"Until the government comes up with alternative housing, I will not allow anyone to lay a finger on them," said Serin, who came to power on the ticket of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party last year. Thousands of Kurds celebrated their victory as a first step toward self-rule.

Serin said he has forwarded a proposal to Serhatli's office seeking land where his municipality will build free housing for families who lose their homes. "I am still waiting for an answer," he said.

CAPTION: Kurdish children play outside their home built by Diyarbakir's old walls.