Monday, September 7, 2020

After Refusing to Preserve It, Turkish Islamic Foundation Demolishes a Historic Greek Orthodox Church in Bursa

The Church of Saint George, which was restored and transformed into a cultural center by the Nilüfer Municipality in Bursa, was taken from the municipality and transferred to an Islamic Foundation. The historical building, which was neglected for seven years, was destroyed on September 1st, Gazete Duvar reported.

The Greek Orthodox Church, which was estimated to have been built in 1896, was converted into a mosque after the exchange in 1923, but became abandoned because it was not used after the Yeni Özlüce Mosque was built. The Nilüfer Municipality, which took on the historical building in 2006, restored the building within the scope of the project approved by the Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation Board and opened it into service as the Özlüce Culture House in 2009. When the building was abandoned, it was restored by the Nilüfer Municipality and transformed into Özlüce Kultürevi.

Nilüfer Municipality, wishing to pass on the Greek Orthodox Church, known as the “Hagia Sophia of Bursa” since it was used both as a church and a mosque in the past, to future generations, organized various cultural events in the historical building. However, in 2013, as a result of the lawsuit filed by the Regional Directorate of Foundations, Özlüce Kultürevi was taken from Nilüfer Municipality and registered with the İnesiye Village Mosque Foundation.

The historical building, whose door was locked after passing to the foundation, was not maintained for years, and cracks began to appear in the building. Noting the situation to the Regional Directorate of Foundations and drawing attention to the danger of demolition, Nilüfer Municipality attempted again in 2016 to control the church and demanded that the building be allocated to the municipality for renovation. However, it was stated that the building cannot be used for any purpose other than a place of worship and that this place was a mosque.

Nilüfer Municipality warned of demolition in 2019 and demanded that the building be rented to the municipality again. However, it was refused. The historical building, left unattended for seven years, was demolished on September 1.

Nilüfer Mayor Turgay Erdem said: “We restored this place and spent about 2 million Turkish lira with today’s money. Our aim was to transform the place, which is not used as a mosque, into a cultural center and protect it. We have done our part to pass on a cultural heritage to future generations. However, the Foundations have taken away the historical structure in a meaningless way. And left to rot. For seven years, nobody claimed this structure. Public money was wasted because of this negligence. Who will account for this? We will file a criminal complaint against those responsible.”

Stating that they wanted the building to be reassigned or rented out to the municipality for the purpose of renovation by drawing attention to the cracks and the danger of collapse in the building for seven years, Erdem said, “Today, we are again demanding. We have all the details of the projects of the building, we can restore this structure from scratch if necessary. As long as it is allocated to us.”