Volunteers establish platform to ‘retain Antakya’s culture’

Volunteers establish platform to ‘retain Antakya’s culture’

Alperen Karaköse - ANKARA
Volunteers establish platform to ‘retain Antakya’s culture’

Volunteers have found a platform in Hatay’s Antakya district, one of the most affected by Feb.6’s tragic earthquakes and aftershocks that hit the country’s south, to demand that the multicultural area home to centuries of history that’s largely been turned into dust be rebuilt as a modern world city in accordance with its historical originality.

“The Friends of Ancient Antakya was established against the risks that might threaten the city’s ancient culture during its rebuilding process,” Murat Tenekecioğlu, the co-founder of the platform, told Hürriyet Daily News, stressing that they make constructive suggestions accordingly.

The platform issued an opinion and suggestion text calling authorities to carry out restoration and repair of historical artifacts and cultural assets such as mosques, inns, baths, churches, synagogues and old houses and quarters in accordance with the principles of the Venice Charter, a set of guidelines drawn up in 1964 that provides an international framework for the conservation and restoration of historic buildings.

Antakya, known in Roman and medieval times as Antioch, is an ancient city founded in 300 B.C. It was a regional capital for the Roman Empire and was also one of the earliest centers of Christianity and important for both Judaism and Islam.

“The regulation on zoning amnesty should be terminated and construction law should be urgently reviewed and reorganized so that such devastation will not occur again,” the text said, referring to the set of laws that grant reconciliation to buildings without planning permission.

Pointing out that the platform has veteran geologists, city planners, architects and archaeologists, Tenekecioğlu said the reconstruction of the city, a vibrant multi-religious place until recently, should be conducted after forming a joint working group with scientists who know the region well.

The findings of this working group should be shared with the public, he added.

“Antakya, whose ancient culture consists of love, respect and tolerance, must be re-established in an earthquake-resistant manner without destroying its historical texture, turning it into a concrete pile, being standardized, marginalizing certain groups,” he said.

The platform has received intense participation, including experts from across the globe, such as the U.S., European countries and Russia, according to Tenekecioğlu.

“We are currently in the process of creating sub-working groups, but it will gradually turn into a non-governmental organization,” he said.

The search and rescue efforts are currently focused especially on Hatay, according to authorities, as the province was one of the most affected by the devastating tremors and aftershocks.

“One out of two houses in Antakya either was collapsed or needs to be demolished,” Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said last week at a press conference in Kahramanmaraş.