The Galata Tower, an enduring symbol of Istanbul, is an iconic medieval stone 67m (200 ft) tall structure. Every year, tourists queue to enter the tower, which offers some of the best views of the city. However, this beautiful tower, located in Beyoğlu, has been seriously damaged during “restoration” works.
The interior walls, dating from the Ottoman period – as seen by videos on social media – appear to have been broken down by jackhammers.
Built in 528 AD, the tower is listed in UNESCO’s World Temporary Heritage List. Tension between the İstanbul Municipality and the Turkish Culture of Ministry has been ongoing over the jurisdiction of the tower. The tower was handed over to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism before Ekrem İmamoğlu from the CHP (the main opposition party) was officially accepted into office as Istanbul’s mayor.
“There is no difference between what ISIS did to historical artifacts in Syria and this”, stated CHP Istanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu.
The city’s cultural heritage department director, Mahir Polat, called the “restoration works” an act of vandalism.
Nuri Ersoy, the Minister of Culture, disagreed, stating that what has been done to the tower is not demolition. After public outrage over the images seen on social media, he explained on his twitter account that workers are now removing the parts that were added before, so that ‘no real harm’ has been done to the tower. The Minister also added that the company responsible for these “restoration works” will be charged because of the methods they employed.
However, the city’s Cultural Heritage Department has concluded that “it is unconscionable to see İstanbul destroy its treasures”.
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality spokesman, Murat Ongun, announced on his twitter account that they have now filed a criminal complaint against all responsible parties involved in the “restoration” work.
The tower had been scheduled to reopen on 15th September after “restoration work”, but after these debates and controversies, that date may be subject to revision.