200 trees felled for mosque ‘by mistake‘ in dawn operation in Istanbul
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet
Hürriyet photoAn association led by a preliminary Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayoral candidate has felled 200 trees in a luxury housing area in Istanbul in order to make space for a mosque. However, Ali Bakaner, the head of the Alkent 2000 Mosque and Qur’an Course Establishment and Sustention Association, said the workers had cut down the trees “by mistake.”
Around 10 members of an association established to organize a mosque’s construction in the area of Alkent 2000, a neighborhood that accommodates a number of luxurious houses, cut down 200 trees before sunrise on Dec. 19, despite objections from the private security staff.
Bakaner later claimed that the workers had felled the trees “inadvertently.”
“The workers cut down the trees by mistake, I was also really sad when I saw them cut,” he said.
Bakaner is an AKP preliminary candidate for Istanbul’s Arnavutköy district in the March 2014 local elections.
“We ordered the workers to remove some trees and plant them somewhere else, designated by the housing area managers, but they misunderstood and cut them all down,” he said, vowing to plant more trees.
However, residents say the association had earlier announced its intention to build a mosque in the area and continued despite objections.
“Last week, association chairman Ali Bakaner and other members told us they would build a mosque in this area. We opposed this because these trees were planted by residents of the housing site. If it was built somewhere else, around the site, we would back the construction, but cutting down trees isn’t nice at all,” said Tahsin Özden, the manager of a site located near the disputed land.
According to reports, the land in question was previously owned by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, but new land plans revealed it had been transferred to the Religious Affairs Directorate.
The Alkent 2000 Mosque Establishment Association had applied to the Religious Affairs Directorate to appropriate the land to build the mosque.