Greece turns spiritual center of Muslim Turks on Rhodes island into music faculty

Historical Murat Reis Complex was primarily a cemetery for soldiers in Ottoman era, says expert.

Greece turns spiritual center of Muslim Turks on Rhodes island into music faculty

Greek authorities have turned the historical Murat Reis Complex, a spiritual center for Muslim Turks living on Rhodes Island, into a music faculty.

The center comprises a mosque, a dervish lodge, and a cemetery for soldiers.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Neval Konuk, a lecturer at Istanbul-based Marmara University’s Faculty of Architecture and Design, said the historical Murat Reis Complex was primarily a cemetery where "martyred" soldiers were buried after the island was conquered by the Ottomans in 1522.

Konuk, who has written 12 books and more than 50 research papers on Ottoman architecture in the Balkans, noted that the building also hosts the tomb of Murat Pasha, who conquered Cyprus, as well as two Crimean Khans, and the tomb of an Iranian Shah.

She said the complex also hosts Muslim events, such as weddings, circumcision and mawlid, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

According to Konuk, following the death of the volunteer tomb keeper Saban Karginlioglu in 2018, the complex was confiscated by the Council of Monuments on Rhodes Island.

“Murat Reis Complex was the religious and spiritual center where the Turks living on Rhodes Island held their wedding, circumcision, mawlid, and other ceremonies,” she said.

“It was converted into a music faculty. This is an enormous destruction culturally and an immense disrespect religiously.”

Erasing island's Ottoman heritage

She said Greece tries to erase the island's Ottoman heritage by refusing to register the relics of that era.

“The number of Ottoman-Turkish works registered throughout Greece, including Western Thrace and the islands, is zero.”

“These works of art are recorded as Muslim works. Muslim fountain, in the form of a Muslim library. ‘And who is this Muslim?’ if we ask, there is no answer,” she added.

“Greece ignores all Ottoman artifacts within its borders, it does not accept them.”

She said the Ottoman monuments – built in the period from the Greek Declaration of Independence to the occupation of Rhodes by the Italians in 1912 – were also ignored.

“They also do not accept structures such as public buildings, junior high schools, high schools, or government buildings within the borders of present-day Greece,” she added.

“Hamidiye Hospital in Thessaloniki is a very famous building which is still in use. Since the French used the hospital during World War I, it is registered as a French hospital in all records, theses, and tourism guides,” she said.

Planned destruction

Konuk also claimed that there has been no Islamic burial in the cemetery since 1912 and that historical cemeteries and tombs have been destroyed in a planned manner.

Several theft incidents of historical tombstones have been reported at the cemetery, Konuk said.

In addition, the Greeks living on the island constantly pour cat-dog food in the cemetery, leaving behind a lot of residue, she said.

“These tombstones are not maintained except for minor repairs by the Turks who have been visiting since 1912,” she added. “By pouring cat-dog food, the cemetery is destroyed, and defiled because of the animal droppings.”

Among the 250 tombstones and six shrines at the cemetery, there are graves belonging to the clergy who served in the lodge, the flag bearer of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Mevlevis, scholars and notable Turks of Rhodes.

“The shrines are in a very bad condition as they have not been maintained for 110 years."

She further said the tombstones at the cemetery are original examples of Ottoman art.

“There are tombstones that contain very different symbols and are very important in terms of Ottoman-Turkish art,” she added. “For example, a gallows was placed on the full neck of the tombstone of the person who was buried after he was executed. It has a hook and rope on it. I have not seen this symbol on any other tombstone.”

Faulty restoration work

She lamented that the structures which have been restored have been done haphazardly, causing more harm than good.

“Have you ever seen a mosque restoration in the concept of a kindergarten with colored walls? In Kavala Halil Bey Mosque and Madrasa, it is as if you are walking in Venice. There are mosque restorations with all the walls in color.

“In other words, the identity of the buildings is lost, their originality is lost, their style is lost,” she said.

“Apart from this, minarets and inscriptions are also removed. In the dome, instead of lead, corrugated tiles are used to evoke Byzantine architecture. Ottoman architecture is being destroyed with restoration work.”

Konuk noted that in the last 20-25 years, Türkiye has opened many Greek-Orthodox churches, most of them from the 19th century, even if they do not have a congregation.

“Churches in Edirne, Ordu, Cesme, and Alacati were restored and opened to worship even if they did not have congregations."

There were 390 years of Ottoman rule in Rhodes from 1522 to 1912, but it has all been erased, she said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Ekim 2022, 19:26

Hüseyin Demir

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