7th August 2013- A controversial mosque project on Üsküdar’s highest hill, Çamlıca, on the Anatolian side of İstanbul, kicked off on Tuesday with a ceremony.
Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and other top state figures attended the ceremony to mark the beginning of the construction of the mosque.
The project has been marked by the latest of a series of rows between government and its opponents, including conservative figures, over lack of public deliberation and consultation on mega public projects concerning wide segments of society and İstanbulites in particular. The Çamlıca Mosque project has led to fierce divisions and debates among the public over the site of the construction with many people expressing their distaste and disapproval of the plan, citing that the mosque could harm İstanbul’s silhouette.
Speaking to the audience at the ceremony, Minister Bayraktar said the government will leave its mark on history by finalizing the project. With the completion of the project, he said, the mosque will be a symbol across the Islamic world. He said television antennas and transmitters located on the hill which provide technical infrastructure to broadcasting channels in the Turkey’s largest city will be removed to open a vast space where more social facilities will be built.
Bayraktar also stated that government will launch a large campaign to green the hill through planting thousands of trees. The mosque, which will occupy a nearly 15,000-square-meter plot and will hold approximately 30,000 people, has been designed to be visible from every corner of İstanbul and plans include cultural and social facilities in its vicinity. Additional facilities will be constructed in a total area of 57,511 square meters, including the mosque, a tourist area with cafés and restaurants, a recreation area, a children’s park and facilities where courses on Ottoman calligraphy, gilding and ebru (paper marbling) will be offered.