LOCAL > Botanic Park’s seizure by Istanbul Mufti’s Office stirs debate

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Istanbul Mufti’s office’s seizure of a university’s botanic garden to rebuilt a historic building in the area causes academic immunity worries

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Istanbul University’s Botanic Garden has been collecting different species since 1933 – this makes it more precious, experts say. The garden’s unique Golden Horn and Bosphorus view makes it charming. DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah Güler

Istanbul University’s Botanic Garden has been collecting different species since 1933 – this makes it more precious, experts say. The garden’s unique Golden Horn and Bosphorus view makes it charming. DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah Güler

Sevim Songün Demirezen Sevim Songün Demirezen sevim.songun@hurriyet.com.tr

Istanbul University’s Botanic Garden will be allocated to the Istanbul Mufti’s Office, the university’s rector has said about a development that has raised worries among academics.

Rector Yunus Söylet told a talk show in April that the garden might be moved elsewhere as the mufti’s office wants to regain the property, adding that the prime minister wanted to revive history there, meaning that a historical building could be rebuilt on the site.

“Six months ago, I had doubts [about this project] too. But the head of Religious Affairs Directorate showed me a photo [which proves that] this place [garden] belonged to the office of the Shaykh al-Islam [the top Islamic authority in Ottoman times]. But it has been used by the university as a botanical garden for the past 60 years. We have to consider this and find a balanced solution,” said Söylet.

On May 29, Söylet wrote on Twitter that the Religious Affairs Directorate had been demanding the garden from the university for the past eight years following a question from a student. The university did not respond to the Hürriyet Daily News’ request for information on the issue.

After Söylet’s remarks, a number of students, academics and activists gathered at a panel in Istanbul to discuss the significance of the garden for science and to voice their demands that the garden be maintained. Several academics are still waiting for a response from the rector’s office for an appointment in which they expect to express the importance of the garden to science.

Istanbul University’s Alfred Heilbronn Botanic Garden was established near Süleymaniye Mosque in 1933, by Alfred Heilbronn and Leo Brauner, two Jewish professors who escaped Nazi Germany for Turkey. Erdal Üzen, an academic who has worked at the garden for many years, says the uprooting of such plants would cause damage to them. The botanical garden in Süleymaniye includes around 3,000 different plant species and 1,000 different tree species that function as a record of all the species found in Anatolia. The Turkey’s Biologists Association’s Istanbul bureau head, İlbay Kahraman, warned that the uprooting would cause great damage to the school and garden. Kahraman said he was worried that the property might be privatized and allocated for a hotel, residence or mall project, noting that the location was whetting private firms’ appetite due its beautiful view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. “The botanical gardens help us determine biological changes. This garden has been collecting different species since 1933 – this makes it more precious,” he said.


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american american

6/10/2013 9:33:26 PM

sorry butterworth, public land is public land

Tayyar Abi

6/10/2013 5:17:47 PM

@american American: You are making a very misleading statement. The American parks opened up consist of empty unpopulated land in the West consisting of hundreds of thousands of square kilometers opened for ranching, oil and gas production etc. Not city parks.


6/10/2013 5:14:00 PM

Gradually Istanbul is losing her trees: it is not like our losing some old custom or tradition. Traditions vanish because others succeed them, or because they are no longer necessary, but the disappearance of a centuries-old tree is a different matter. Even if another tree is planted in its place, it requires time to influence the landscape. And if it eventually succeeds, it cannot be the same tree blessed by our forefathers when they lived beneath it . . . . --Tanpinar.

Rimon Tree

6/10/2013 3:22:02 PM

@ Blue Dotterel I am sorry but listen this story: 30 years ago the very strong Austrian Socialist Party lead by a successful PM with many merits tried to destroy a Natural Reserve Park to build a power station. Thousands of young people went there to a sit in in an extremly icy winter. One day the gov sent bulldozers and turned them against the protesters, who nevertheless didn't move. There were many hurt and the nation was outraged. The PM though strong and determined had to RESIGN! Got it?

american american

6/10/2013 3:16:40 PM

blue, the national parks in america have been opened up to private development - if you want some help

mr who

6/10/2013 2:08:25 PM

Shades of Adolf Hitler what his thoughts were in art and parks back off let the people think and let democracy rule .

eva simonsson

6/10/2013 1:56:42 PM

Usually a Prime Minister does not have a say in the matter of universities' parks... Could someone please inform the Mufti's office...


6/10/2013 1:30:10 PM

Those Jews stirring up trouble again, :-p

mehmet ud

6/10/2013 1:01:58 PM

@Blue dottrel. Its a shame the military is not to come out to save you this time because the nations Pasha has dealt wilth menaces within military and cleaned it. This time turkey has woken up to other menaces such as youself and believe me, the nation is not going to forgive you. Turkey was shortlisted for the olypics and your lot destroyed all hopes in a time when everything for the country has never been better. But Erdogan Pasha will not let you destroy the economy and peoples livilihood.

Blue Dotterel

6/10/2013 12:31:42 PM

@Brit in Turkey, Although, no doubt many have, when did ı claim they did?
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