01/19/2021, 09.23
TURKEY
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Bursa, an ancient Armenian church expropriated and put up for sale for over 800 thousand dollars

by Marian Demir

In the announcement published on the internet, the exact location and name of the place of worship are not specified to "protect trade secrets". From 1923 it was used as a tobacco warehouse, then as a textile factory. It could become a museum, cultural centre or hotel. The sentencing of Garo Pylan, an Armenian opposition parliamentarian.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Turkish authorities have put up for sale an ancient Armenian church in Bursa, a metropolis south of the Marmara Sea, on the slopes of the ancient Misia mountain, a famous tourist resort, at a price of 6.3 million lire (just over 800 thousand dollars).

At the moment the exact location and name of the place of worship is not specified. In the advertisement posted online (in the photo) you can see some parts of the structure, which remains secret for issues related "to the protection of trade secrets and for personal matters".

The announcement reads: " Historical church that can become a culture and art center/museum/hotel in Bursa. Built by the Armenian population living in this region, the church was sold and became private property following the demographic change and was then used after 1923 as a tobacco warehouse, then as a weaving factory. The church, located in Bursa, a city included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, can be used for tourism purposes due to its particular location ". The indication of "demographic change" vaguely alludes to the genocide of the Armenians and the flight of many Greek Christians in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the first years of the new secular Republic.

In fact, the deed of sale states that the place of worship can become both a cultural center and a place for art, a museum or a more prosaic hotel with commercial purposes. The reactions of the Armenian Christian community and of the opposition movements were immediate and critical: Garo Pylan, an ethnic Armenian parliamentarian from the opposition HDP party attacks: “An Armenian church for sale in Bursa. But is it ever possible to put a place of worship up for sale? How can the state and society allow all this? Shame on you!".

For the Turkish Christian community, the decision to sell a place of worship is only the latest in a series of controversial episodes that show the lack of respect, if not the contempt and trade in religious and cultural heritage: in recent days the story emerged of the barbecue in the historic Armenian church of Sourp Asdvadzadzi;  after last year’s conversions to mosques of the ancient Christian basilicas - then museums in the early 1900s under Ataturk - of Hagia Sophia and Chora.

The controversial decisions were made in the context of the "nationalism and Islam" policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an attempt to hide the economic crisis and maintain power. Following the presidential decree that decreed its transformation, the Islamic authorities covered the images of Jesus, frescoes and icons that testify to the Christian roots with a white curtain both in Chora and in Hagia Sophia.

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