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Greece criticised for failing to restore Lesbos mosques despite agreement with Turkiye

May 22, 2024 at 2:04 pm

Door of a mosque on Lesbos, Greece [Getty]

Greece has yet to restore historic mosques on the island of Lesbos, despite mutual agreements and the principle of reciprocity with neighbouring Turkiye, according to a report by Daily Sabah.

In a 2010 deal with the municipality of Ayvalik in Turkiye’s Balikesir province, bordering Lesbos, the Greek administration agreed to restore three historical mosques on the island in exchange for the restoration of three Greek Orthodox churches in Ayvalik.

“While Ayvalik has fulfilled the agreement and renovated the buildings, Greece is yet to adhere to the deal 14 years later,” Neval Konuk, an associate professor of architectural history from Marmara University, told Anadolu Agency.

Although Ankara and Athens have recently improved bilateral relations, the state of Ottoman heritage mosques remains a contentious issue. Turkiye has criticised Greece for neglecting Muslim minority rights and allowing Ottoman-era buildings to fall into disrepair. Two weeks ago, meanwhile, Greece slammed Turkiye for re-opening a former Orthodox Church and museum as the Chora Mosque.

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“Turkiye has rebuilt more than 80 churches and opened them for worship on certain days, even in places without congregations,” explained Konuk. “Greek scientists supported these restorations, yet we cannot get Greece to restore even a fountain.”

Konuk highlighted the dilapidated state of Ottoman-era mosques on Lesbos, including Yali Mosque, Valide Mosque and Yeni Mosque. The former, built in 1805, has been repurposed as an agricultural tools office, while the restoration of the 1615 Valide Mosque was slowed after the controversial decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to revert Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia into a mosque in 2020.

“Now they’re considering turning the mosque into a city library and a memorial house after it’s completed,” said Konuk.

The 1815-built Yeni Mosque has been vulnerable to external damage for 15 years due to neglect.