Development scorned on social media for blocking famed Süleymaniye Mosque owned by President’s son

After an outcry by AKP supporters on social media over a seemingly new development in Istanbul’s old city that blocked the view of the famed Süleymaniye Mosque, it was discovered that the construction was commissioned by a foundation run by President Erdoğan's son.

Hazal Ocak / DUVAR 

The development scorned by pro-government social media users in recent days for blocking the view of the famed Süleymaniye Mosque was commissioned by the İlim Yayma Foundation (Knowledge Dissemination Foundation), whose chairman of the Board of Trustees is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan. 

This week, pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) social media users reacted in fury after pictures showed a development in progress that would seemingly block the view of the famed Süleymaniye Mosque, designed by architect Mimar Sinan. They used the images as an opportunity to scorn the opposition-led Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB), which they said had allowed construction to mar an important religious site. 

After investigation, it was discovered that the development was actually owned by the İlim Yayma Foundation, the controversial religious foundation overseen by Bilal Erdoğan. The property - formerly a lodge called Fetva Han – was granted by the AKP-led Istanbul Municipality in the interim between local elections and recall elections in 2019.

The AKP famously denied the results of the first election, which handed power over Turkey’s largest city to the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, only to lose again in a second recall election.

Mahir Polat, current İBB Deputy Secretary-General, said that the project was prepared hastily after the ruling party’s first loss and control over the property granted to the foundation. However, he says that even under AKP leadership, the project should not have been allowed due to its proximity to and obstruction of the “Ottoman world’s top silhouette,” in his words.

“It affects the silhouette of the Süleymaniye Mosque. This is weird. Even if all the permits have been taken, this should not be done, this building must stop immediately."

Polat tweeted that the İBB will apply to the conservation board for the cancellation of the project. 

Polat urged all Istanbul residents to push back against the project. 

The project was approved in July 2019 and is planned to be completed in April 2024.

After it was revealed that the building was, in fact, owned by Bilal Erdoğan’s foundation, pro-government social media users hastily removed their tweets. However, this was not before the incident created an online uproar. The Foundation was obliged to make a statement in which they claimed the project - ostensibly dorms - would not affect the historical appearance or visual access to the mosque. Images of the already-standing construction project, however, seem to contest this.

Polat says the project must be stopped immediately in order to preserve the cultural heritage of the city. 

“This is a persecution against Süleymaniye and it must be stopped immediately,” he said. “Everyone needs to act with this awareness. What good would it do anyone to build a floor there or not?”

(English version by Erin O'Brien)