Greece does not let Turkey restore ‘even a single fountain’: Academic
İZMİR – Anadolu Agency
Greek officials have not been allowing Turkey to restore Ottoman monuments in Greece of which there are about 20,000, an academic said.
Neval Konuk Halaçoğlu, a lecturer at Turkey’s Marmara University in Istanbul who specializes in Ottoman architecture, said Greece has never allowed Turkey to restore any of the Ottoman monuments in the country.
Greece has registered Ottoman monuments as “Muslim monuments,” instead of Ottoman or Turkish monuments, which prevents Turkey from having any say over their upkeep, Halaçoğlu told Anadolu Agency during a symposium on the problems of the Turkish minority in the Dodecanese islands of Greece.
“We [Turkey] cannot restore even a single fountain, and I foresee that we will never be allowed,” she said.
There are Ottoman monuments all over the Balkan region, and many of them - except the ones in Greece - have been restored by Turkish institutions, mostly by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA).
Among the Ottoman monuments that Greece recognizes as “Muslim monuments,” only a few of them were restored by Greece, Halaçoğlu said.
Greece restores those monuments only if they are in a visible place such as a tourism area, she added.
Ottomans had annexed today’s northern Greece and Bulgaria even before the conquest of Istanbul, said the academic.
Greece and Bulgaria have monuments even from the early Ottoman period.
Halaçoğlu said Greece takes the date of its independence, 1831, as a reference date for registering the Muslim monuments.
“Therefore, Ottoman monuments built after 1831 across Greece are not registered,” she stressed.
But after that date, most of Greece was still under Ottoman rule. The empire lost northern Greece in 1912, Halaçoğlu said.
Between 1831 and 1912, many public buildings such as schools, government offices and military barracks were erected by Ottomans in today’s Greece, but none of them are registered, she added.
Greece in 2006 prepared an inventory of Muslim monuments in the country.
According to that inventory, there are 8,731 Muslim monuments in Greece, excluding those built after 1831, Halaçoğlu said.
There are about 20,000 Ottoman monuments in Greece, according to her.
She said Ottomans had built a lot of fountains, and she has discovered 36 fountains only in the area around the house of Ataturk, Turkey’s founding leader, in Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki.
Some Ottoman monuments need immediate restoration, and Turkey could be allowed at least to take part in the restoration process of those monuments, she said.
Today, Hasan Baba Tekke - a Sufi shrine from the 14th century in Larissa, central Greece - has been under restoration since 1962, as can be seen in a photo of the shrine in that year, Halacoglu said, showing it as an example of Greeks’ approach to restoration processes.
Although Greece restored some Ottoman monuments, it did not remain faithful to the original style of the monuments, she said.
Greece uses colors such as claret red or dark blue, which would never be used in a mosque.
Ali Pasha Mosque on Rhodes Island, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, and a Turkish bath, or “hammam,” in Lesbos Island, were under such a restoration, which made them look like “night clubs,” she said.
This type of restoration destroys the identity of the monuments, she said, and added: “If we restored a monument in Turkey in a similar way, the whole Europe would be alarmed”.
Greece has a policy of either concealing Ottoman monuments or restoring them by destroying their identity, the academic said. Greece rejects help by a Turkish expert in restorations, she added.
The restoration of the minaret of Süleymaniye Mosque on Rhodes Island took 10 years because Greece was unable to find an expert on minarets, and they did not look for an expert from Turkey.
“In the last 15 years, we [Turkey] have opened 84 Greek Orthodox churches for worship, which were financed by Turkey,” Halaçoğlu said.
She said that some of these churches were rebuilt almost from scratch.
There is not even one mosque which is open to worship in Athens or Thessaloniki, she added.
The city of Rhodes has more Ottoman monuments than some of Turkish cities such as Edirne, one of the first capitals of the Ottomans located in today’s northwestern Turkey, she said.
'Greece must recognize Turkish minority in W Thrace'
A minority rights group on Oct. 24 called on Greece to recognize the Turkish minority of Western Thrace.
The Western Thrace region of Greece is home to a Muslim Turkish minority of around 150,000 people.
In a report published on Oct. 24, the Minority Rights Group (MRG) said: "Greek authorities must take immediate steps to recognize the Turkish minority in Western Thrace and remove all barriers to the full enjoyment of their rights."
The report said the Turkish minority in Western Thrace has inhabited the region for centuries.
"However, despite a raft of protection in domestic and international law, they remain unrecognized by the Greek government," it added.
"It is estimated that almost half of the population of Western Thrace is ethnically Turkish – but to this day they are denied the right to identify themselves as such," Neil Clarke, MRG’s head of legal programs and Brussels advocacy, said in a statement.
Anna Alboth, media program coordinator of MRG, told reporters in an e-mail to announce the release of the report that they had worked on the report for more than a year.
"Nobody is talking about it but it is one of the most serious violations of the minority rights in our European Union," Alboth said, adding that the report was published in three languages: English, Turkish and Greek.
Ali Huseyinoglu, a PhD from Turkey's Trakya University who is one of the leading experts on the Turkish minority of Western Thrace, said in a tweet that the report is "one of the most comprehensive reports ever" about the minority.