Our cultural assets going, going, gone to Uncle Mustafa

Our cultural assets going, going, gone to Uncle Mustafa

MELİS ALPHAN melisalphan@hurriyet.com.tr
A new personality has entered our lives. This person has a place in the world’s richest people list. No wonder the transcriptions of his phone calls with the prime minister or one of the Cabinet ministers are posted on the Internet on an almost daily basis. He seems to be the jack of all trades. He is dealing with each detail from the toilet taps of the villas to the status of the land where a warehouse is going to be built.

Well, money is hard to earn. Those billions of dollars do not just accumulate themselves.

The authority calls him “Abi,” which is a respectable way of calling your older brother, the authority’s daughter calls him “Uncle Mustafa.” He is not only dealing with villas, but his most nerve-racking initiative has been his attempt to get rid of our cultural and historic heritage, the transcripts of which were released a few days ago.

It seems this Uncle Mustafa was going to build a warehouse in İzmir’s Kemalpaşa district. For what, we do not know…

It is a question whether he would erect one of the shopping malls that we have sold our souls to or one of his chain market stores.


During the excavation for this warehouse, some historic remains were found. Well, the law is obligatory; they informed the İzmir Museum. The archaeologists discovered a major complex and mosaics of several animals belonging to extinct species such as the Anatolian leopard and lion.

The former culture minister, who resigned from that party, has now issued sentences such as “This is the Zeugma of the West.”

Uncle Mustafa was not impressed. He insisted on his warehouse; he wanted the mosaics and walls removed. However, the place has been registered as a first-degree protected area. Uncle Mustafa has challenged this decision twice.

Two academics from Ege University, without blushing, issued a report saying, “Yes, these mosaics can be moved.” Uncle Mustafa was thrilled.

But there is limit to any favor. Nobody was able to say the walls could also be moved. Well, Uncle Mustafa has called the new culture minister. The culture minister said: “I have told them to move the mosaics and they are moving them. But the walls cannot be removed.”

Uncle Mustafa does not know of any historic assets; he is a man of shopping malls. He insisted to the minister, “Abi, those walls have no importance. They are in a very bad condition; we have taken them out of the earth anyway,” trying to persuade the minister.

He cannot possibly now that archaeology is for this anyway; to excavate the past regardless of condition and expose the treasure as itself…

The minister said a million times, “Abi, this is a first-degree protected area; no one can touch it.” When Uncle Mustafa continued his attempts to persuade the minister, maybe just to finish the conversation, he said, “Let’s see what we can do.”

We do not know the rest… the story ends here.

One year ago, I wrote the businessman who found a Byzantium cistern while digging for the foundations of his new factory. Businessman Nurettin Çelik applied to the Council of Monuments to excavate this cistern and restore it. He spent 71,470 Turkish Liras for the excavation. He is going to make a museum there and he is now waiting for the approval of the restoration process.

Some people laughed at him: “Are you crazy? Why are you spending this money? Go and buy a new car.”

I had written this at that time: “Now, they are saying they will build monuments, for example a mosque on Çamlıca Hill. And these would be our monuments. They will do it with cement that lasts 100-150 years. Well, this is how a monument is built: After 1,000 years, it is still there. And a good guy comes by and protects it.”

Well, there are also bad guys.

Uncle Mustafa, for instance, is moving 1,000-year-old mosaics so he can fill up his boxes, and try to knock down historic walls saying, “Come on, these are all in very bad condition.”

All right, it is the state’s duty to protect historic heritage; however, the bad guys with capital are not at all helping…

Melis Alphan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Feb 8. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.