Even though Greece has criticized Turkey for reopening Istanbul’s historic Hagia Sophia as a mosque, the situation of Ottoman-era monuments in Greece tells a different story, with most of them neglected, ruined, or used for purposes, which completely disregard their history.
Some mosques were converted into churches with renovations, while others were used as bars or movie theaters for “adult” films.
It is estimated that there are over 10,000 artifacts and monuments from Turkish-Islamic architecture in Greece.
While intense criticisms were made from Greece in opening Hagia Sophia for worship, the situation of Turkish-Islamic works in the country draw attention.
On Friday, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 85-year hiatus. Before that, it had been a mosque for nearly 500 years.
Built in 1468 in Thessaloniki, Hamza Bey Mosque was used as a place of worship for a while after Greece gained its independence. In the following years, the minaret of the mosque, made of cut stone, was destroyed, the pencil works in the dome and the writing plates were deleted, while the interlocking wooden pulpit inside was also destroyed.
The mosque, owned by the National Bank of Greece in 1927, was later on sold to a private person, divided into a shop and a cinema and used for displaying adult movies until the 80s.
The Faik Pasha Mosque in the city of Narda (Arta) in the Ioannina region was turned into a church after the population exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923. It is known that the mosque, which was later abandoned, was used as a bar-pavilion in the 1970s.
The mosque, which seems to have been built as the center of a complex in the 15th century, is now in ruins.
On the other hand, mosques and historical buildings in many important cities, including the capital Athens, Ioannina, Giannitsa, Crete, Larisa, and Kavala continue to share the same fate.
In Athens, where there is no official mosque open for worship, the oldest mosque — Fethiye Mosque — was used for many different purposes such as military prison and warehouse after the end of Ottoman administration in the city.
The mosque — located in the Roman Agora on the outskirts of the city’s Acropolis within the archaeological area — is believed to be built during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II and it was used as a storehouse for historical artifacts until 2010. Fethiye Mosque is now used as an exhibition hall since the restoration works ended in 2017.
The Cizderiye Mosque, located a few hundred meters from the Fethiye Mosque, is in the Monastiraki Square — one of the touristic places of the city. The mosque is kept closed for most of the year, serving as a ceramics museum for visitors from time to time.
There are no traces of buildings such as Yeni Mosque, Domed Mosque, Ic Kale Mosque, Huseyin Efendi Dervish Lodge, and Haci Ali Bath, which are among the Turkish-Islamic works in Athens and registered in the Ottoman archives as well as yearbooks.
* Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak in Ankara
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