TRABZON DISTURBED BY A CROSS
Turkish Daily News
July 24, 2008 Thursday
Turkey’s Black Sea city of Trabzon has found itself cross with well,
a cross. And the outrage in the community over a shopping center
configuration that looks like a Christian cross from the air has
resulted in reconstruction to make the shopping center look well,
"I guess Trabzon overreacted a little bit," said Levent Eyuboglu,
the chief executive officer of the Multi Turkmall firm that built the
Forum Trabzon shopping center. "There was local sensitivity about
it and we made a gesture to avoid any polemic," Eyuboglu told the
Turkish Daily News.
Trabzon has made headlines frequently in the past two years for
gruesome events that include the murder of priest Andrea Santoro in
2006. The confessed murderer of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant
Dink last year also hailed from Trabzon and the ongoing court case
has revealed that the crime was planned in Trabzon. In another case,
a mosque named after a Christian some 30 years ago was renamed with
a new moniker earlier this year by the local mayor.
The strong sentiments in Trabzon seem to remain unabated. The Forum
Trabzon shopping center was opened last month with a ceremony in which
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated. The architecture
of the building was inspired by the sea and the shopping center is
on the coast as well. However, the light house, which is part of the
structure, caused reactions since it looks like a cross because of
two vertical balconies circling it. The lighthouse had a beautiful
view and the balconies were added later for visitors to enjoy it,
said Eyuboglu. "People misunderstood it," he said.
However, not everyone shares Eyuboglu’s views.
"This was done consciously," said Halil Ibrahim Kalfaoglu, the head of
Trabzon Chamber of Craftsmen and Artisans. People are sensitive about
this issue, he said, adding that the firm should have known about
these sensitivities. "I do not know their aim. I just want everyone
to leave Trabzon alone. Leave us to ourselves," Kalfaoglu said.
Trabzon is very sensitive about nationalism and religion, said
Erhan Esaspehlivan, the news coordinator at the local Karadeniz
newspaper, which first brought the issue of the cross shape to the
agenda. People will react against anything that humiliates their
religion, Esaspehlivan said. "Islam is a noble religion and it will
not be humiliated by such little things. But if you will come and
set up a cross in the middle of the city, I will not overlook it,"
he said. Esaspehlivan also highlighted that Trabzon residents have
respect for other religions on a certain level but the public has to
react when an effort is made to spread other religions.
Gursel Colakoglu, a columnist for Karadeniz newspaper and a professor
at Karadeniz Technical University, on the other hand, believes that
the issue has been blown out of proportion. Trabzon people are so
sensitive currently because of the latest events, he said, alluding
to the murders of Santoro and Dink.
The city of Greeks?
The existing sensitivity to the shopping center goes further back. In
a promotion brochure for the center, the name of the city, "Trabzon"
was written vertically on the letter "R" in the middle of the word
"Forum." In Turkish, "rum" is the term used to denote Greeks. This
design of the brochure led to reactions as well, as some people said
that the brochure implies that Trabzon is a city of Greeks.
Pontic Greeks were inhabitants of Trabzon in the past and this is
one of the reasons why the people are sensitive about the issue,
said the city’s mayor, Mehmet Volkan Canalioglu.
Trabzon needs the investment
Although the city is cross with the cross, many people think that the
city needs an investment like Forum Trabzon shopping center. Canalioglu
said with the shopping center the city gained a new vision. Colakoglu
said the city needed the center.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress