12 May Tuesday

An Open Letter from Mayor Imamoğlu to the Minister of Culture about Galata Tower

Mr. Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of Istanbul wrote a letter regarding the decision to transfer the Galata Tower, which is a municipal property, to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey.

In the open letter Mayor Imamoğlu wrote to H.E. Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, it was emphasized that the historical monument was the property of the municipality since 1855 and the ministry's decision was not in accordance with the "hundreds-year-long tradition of foundations." Mayor Imamoğlu also said that the ministry previously attempted to take over 10 properties of the municipality and was unwilling to work together with the municipality. He said, "We will share these unlawful and unfair initiatives with the public and ensure that the attitude of your ministry is known by all of Istanbulites."  Stating that the evacuation order by the Beyoğlu District Governor's Office was against the law, Mayor Imamoglu also reminded that the court process is still ongoing.

The text of the letter is as follows:

H.E. Mr. Mehmet Ersoy, Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, Ankara, Turkey

As the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM), our efforts, which we have been carrying out for a long time, in order to develop a comprehensive agreement and a foundation for cooperation between our municipality and your ministry regarding the use and operation of cultural and monumental assets in our city, especially Galata Tower, have unfortunately not been able to produce a public benefit.

Due to the intervention of your Ministry, in contradiction with historical facts, universal principles of law and the essence of the understanding of foundations, the issue has reached a point that has resulted in a huge waste of resources and loss of our common values, where we instead should be jointly preparing a Master Plan for the city of Istanbul, for the future of these monuments and to execute this plan, in cooperation with your Ministry and eventually working shoulder to shoulder for the city in the coming days ahead where Turkey’s tourism industry will be driven by visitor flows.

The attitude of your Ministry towards the use of Galata Tower is wrong for three main reasons:

1 - The point reached by the actions of your Ministry is historically wrong and totally unfair. Because Galata Tower has been one of the most important and iconic assets of this city, since the acceptance of Istanbul as the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine), Latin and Ottoman Empires, dating back to the 6th century. Instead of embracing the cultural and touristic assets of Istanbul with joint projects between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM), one sided confiscation of these assets will damage both the future of this dear city, the traditions of our state, and the monumental structures that are the historical heritage of the city. While the restoration and museum conversion projects prepared by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 2017 and approved by the board are known to the public as well as the plans for transformation into a museum, as also approved by the Conservation Board, the building of the by museum by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality was not allowed and IMM’s projects, already approved by the Protection Board, were prevented because of controversial property lawsuits and evacuation procedures. If it is planned to create a museum and cultural area in and around Galata Tower, then the questions arise whether the details of this project have been approved by the Higher Council Of Immovable Antiquities And Monuments, why the content of the project, which is not disclosed to the public, is hidden from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and why it is not opened at the consultative table. Subjecting a historical heritage like Galata Tower to an unplanned investment, could result in causing damage to both the artifact and its function, and lead to irreparable consequences and may well result in major loss of public resources if they are spent in an uncontrolled fashion.

2 - The end result of the actions of your Ministry is wrong and unjust within the framework of the universal principles of law. Because Galata Tower has been the property of the legal entity of Istanbul Municipality since 1855, at which time the municipality was officially established in Istanbul, and has been operated by the Istanbul Municipality or its affiliates during this entire period. The ownership of the Galata Tower was transferred from the Metropolitan Municipality to the General Directorate of Foundations in May 2019, based on an unfounded interpretation of the 30th article of the Law on Foundations enacted in 2008, which is often used as an excuse for the possession of property rather than actually preserving historical cultural assets, and, without any court decision, this illegal process has been initiated based on the current demands of your Ministry. The title deed of Galata Tower, which is an inseparable part of Istanbul's urban identity, cannot be trampled in contravention of historical documents and by flouting of the rule of law. The lawsuit filed by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) on this issue has not been concluded yet. It is obvious that the confiscation of Galata Tower, which was not carried out during the former administration period of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, will be considered as a political maneuver carried out by your ministry in order to restrict the new municipal administration and which does not fit into the understanding of unity of the state.

3 - The point reached by the actions of your Ministry is contrary to the tradition of our nation's centuries-old foundations, it is wrong and unfair in terms of basic law. Because Galata Tower did not come to exist through a foundation and was never a foundation cultural asset. Although it is known from all historical sources and documents that it was built in the 6th century, the transfer of ownership of Galata Tower from the IMM to the General Directorate of Foundations by deed registration, is in contradiction to all kinds of legislation, practices and it is also against the idea and values of foundations. Obviously, it has not been proven by the General Directorate of Foundations that Galata Tower came to exist through a foundation. It is irrational and illegal to transfer the Tower to the General Directorate of Foundations without relying on a valid and genuine document. For this reason, transacting on the basis of Article 30 of the Law on Foundations is baseless and an abdication of reason. Because Article 30 covers the works that are formed entirely by foundations and are foundational culture artifacts. The claim that the Tower is supposedly a foundation cultural heritage, which wasn’t effected since 2008, was put into effect one month after we came to office, for some curious reason. We firmly believe that the law will work and the court process will end with the registration of the Galata Tower property to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality again. It is not possible to understand all these wrong and unjustified actions by your Ministry, being done in a hurry, while the country is struggling with the Covid 19 epidemic and the deep economic crisis in these days which also means that we won’t be able to reach the old densities of tourism in the near future. Just as we could not understand why the voice of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism could not be heard while acts tantamount to the murder of monumental buildings of this cherished city, such as Haydarpaşa and Sirkeci stations, were being carried out. The Galata Tower, one of the most important and iconic structures of Istanbul for 1,500 years and owned by Istanbul Municipality as a legal entity for a minimum of 164 years, cannot be unjustly and illegally confiscatedSince both sides are public administrations and the dispute between the parties is a dispute that needs to be resolved according to law number 3533, the letter of Beyoğlu District Governorate regarding our evacuation from Galata Tower is therefore contrary to law and public conscience. Despite the fact that the Council of State and Regional Administrative Courts have numerous precedent decisions in this direction, unfortunately our objection has been rejected. Your Ministry's attempts to confiscate our properties by using Article 30 of the Law on Foundations and in unlawful ways, are not limited to the Galata Tower as you have made attempts to confiscate 10 other of our different properties. We will share these unlawful and unfair initiatives with the public and ensure that the misguided approach of your ministry is known by all Istanbulites. I hope that the mistakes made will be seen, by taking into consideration our evaluations on the subject, and that you will not proceed any further in this wrong path. I wish you a healthy day and success in your activities.

Mr. Ekrem Imamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul





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