The nationalist opposition İYİ Party in Turkey has called for the immediate cancellation of the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Trabzon, scheduled for 15 August, a date significant as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, on the basis that it is also the anniversary of the conquest of Trabzon by the Ottomans. Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit, the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party MP for Kars, responded to the call, criticising the İYİ Party’s stance and accusing them of competing with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to be the most prohibitive.
Koçyiğit said, “The fact that some parties are labelled as opposition is not because they are actually in opposition, but because they are trying, by using a different label, to pacify those uncomfortable with the system.” She further accused the İYİ Party of openly revealing this approach in the statements they made in the guise of nationalism, saying, “They are competing with the AKP to to be the most prohibitive. In other words, there is no difference between them.”
The controversy began with the Turkish authorities’ initial refusal to grant permission for the Divine Liturgy on 15 August, an annual tradition since the monastery’s reopening for religious services in 2010. Written authorisation was eventually issued on 11 August, but not without sparking a series of political reactions.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has previously responded to comments made by Doğan Bekin, an Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP) MP, regarding the Orthodox liturgy at the Monastery of Panagia Soumela. Bekin had complained that it was no coincidence that the liturgy was to take place on the 562nd anniversary of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror taking Trabzon from the Byzantines on 15 August 1461. The Patriarch emphasised the Treaty of Lausanne’s role in safeguarding the rights of religious minorities and expressed disappointment at the initial denial of permission.
The Monastery of Panagia Soumela, located in the Maçka district of Trabzon, Turkey, is a Greek Orthodox site dating back to the 4th century. The monastery has a complex history of religious ceremonies, with limited annual ceremonies allowed from 2009. In line with the Turkish government’s increasing , intolerance and nationalist and Islamic agenda, objections were raised in 2022, but the ninth Divine Liturgy was nevertheless hosted on 15 August. The initial denial for 2023 was attributed to ‘restoration work’, but permission was finally granted on 11 August.