Friday, May 28, 2021

Erdogan Inaugurates New Mosque Next To Greek Orthodox Church in Taksim Square

The newly-built Taksim Mosque, located in the center of Istanbul, at Taksim Square, was built right next to the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, and was inaugurated today, 28 May 2021, by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, after Friday morning prayers. The inauguration also took place on the eve of the anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, which is consciously commemorated every year by the Turkish President.

Since becoming Mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan has repeatedly insisted that a mosque is absent from Taksim Square, where the only visible religious building there is an Orthodox Christian church (the Holy Trinity Church). Holy Trinity Church was erected in 1880 and is considered the largest Greek Orthodox shrine in Istanbul today. It was the first domed Christian church that was allowed to be built in Istanbul after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Surrounding buildings of the Holy Trinity Church are still left black from the arson attack in 1955. The priests of the church refuse to clean the surface so that the memory of the Istanbul pogrom will be remembered. During the unrest, the church was wrecked and pillaged but withstood an attempted arson attack by the rioters. According to ethnic Armenian actor Nubar Terziyan, who witnessed the incident, the mob arrived at the church and started the fire by dumping kerosene onto the church and lighting it with burning sticks.

The 30-meter-high mosque, which combines Ottoman style with art deco style, can accommodate 4,000 people. But today, thousands of enthusiastic believers could not get inside and prayed in the surrounding areas.

With this mosque, Erdogan puts his stamp on the famous Taksim Square in the center of Istanbul, realizing a dream of thirty years.

The construction of the mosque, which began in 2017, has drawn sharp criticism as some have accused Erdogan of seeking to Islamize the country and undermine Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal.

Now, Erdogan's imposing mosque overshadows the Republic Monument in Taksim Square with statues of Turkish War of Independence personalities led by Mustafa Kemal.

After announcing that the mosque would be inaugurated during Ramadan, Erdogan, obsessed with symbolic dates, finally decided to inaugurate on the day of the start of the massive 2013 anti-government demonstrations, dubbed the Gezi Protests, focused on Taksim Square which was drowned in blood.

The construction of the mosque is also part of a long line of moves by Erdogan to satisfy his ultra-conservative and religious electoral base, in an environment of discontent over the state of the Turkish economy.

According to analysts, this was the reason behind the conversion of Hagia Sophia and Chora Church from a museum to a mosque.