Decision to knock down bell tower stirs debate

Decision to knock down bell tower stirs debate

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Decision to knock down bell tower stirs debate

The tower and small building are located in Mardin’s İzbırak (Raz ) village.

The decision to demolish a bell tower built on a protected cultural heritage site next to a historic Syriac monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin has stirred fresh controversy.

The tower and a small building, located next to the Mor Dimet Monestry in Mardin’s İzbırak (Zaz in Syriac) village, were reportedly built by Priest Yakup, who moved to the village 12 years ago after being excommunicated by the Syriac Christian Church in Damascus.

The Council of Monuments has ruled for the demolishment of the premises, as they were built on a protected zone without permission.

“When he was excommunicated, the priest - in a way - built his own sacred place,” a prominent member of the Syriac community in Mardin told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. “The council and the Mor Gabriel Foundation [which owns Mor Dimet] should have stopped the construction.”

The Council of Monuments was not available for immediate comment. Priest Yakup told the Daily News over the phone that he had built a “guesthouse.” “I built this 12 years ago, no one told me it was a protected area, they even gave me cement for the construction,” he said, adding that he even had a title deed for the building. “The monastery is in ruins, it does not have a bell tower and it cannot carry one, that’s why I built one,” said Yakup. “But the building is a guesthouse. This village used to be a Syriac village, but there are no Syriacs now. I built this guesthouse for those who come from Europe to visit their homeland.”

Kuryakos Ergün, chairman of Mor Gabriel Foundation, said they were trying to stop the demolition decision, although the decision was “right.” The Mor Dimet Monastery, built in the 5th century AC, is already closed to worshipping, Ergün added.