A video has emerged of Üsküdar Mayor Hilmi Türkmen defending a controversial project that had previously damaged the 16th-century Şemşi Paşa Mosque.
The video recorded in August 2020 shows Türkmen telling Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu that the project will break off the connection between the sea and the mosque, which directly sits on the coastline, but “There is nothing to worry about that.”
“It will be beautiful, my mayor. There is nothing to worry about it,” Türkmen says.
The project concerns the construction of a pedestrian walkway by the mosque, which was commissioned by Şemsi Ahmed Paşa to architect Mimar Sinan.
The construction plan goes back to 2017, when the then-AKP municipality installed pile foundations in the sea to fill in the coastline. The move however cracked the mosque's walls, leading to a suspension of the project amid a public outcry.
Üsküdar Mayor Türkmen in the video defends the re-launch of the original project, saying: “The extension of here [the pedestrian walkway into the sea] is not a very problematic issue. We can solve this with pile foundations in the sea. We applied it to different places.”
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) revised the original plan and decided to use steel beams extending from the walls of the mosque toward the sea, in an attempt not to damage the historical structure.
In response to comments that the revised project would also have a risk of damaging the mosque, Mahir Polat, İBB secretary-general, said that they were “fixing” a “despicable” situation brought about by the previous leadership.
“Three years ago, they installed pile foundations in the sea and ruined the mosque's walls. They should file a criminal complaint against whoever is responsible for that implementation. Now, we are fixing the place which they turned into a despicable area, without using any pile foundations, so that people [walking by the mosque] do not fall into the sea. This is a system that can be removed whenever is needed,” he said.