In an effort to preserve and hand down to future generations the historical riches Turkey has, be it an Islamic cultural heritage or sites dating back to ancient civilizations established in Anatolia, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has stepped up work to include more of them on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Turkey has managed to add two more of its cultural heritage properties to the list in the past two years. The Selimiye Mosque and its surrounding social complex were included on the list in 2011, while the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük was added in 2012. Maybe even more importantly, Turkey has succeeded in the last three years in placing 20 more of its historical sites on the tentative World Heritage list, which is a stepping stone to the World Heritage List, thereby pushing the total number of its sites on the tentative list to 37. With 12 of these having entered the list this year, the number of Turkey’s historical sites on the list has more than doubled in the last three years.
Remzi Yağcı, head of the department of museology at 9 Eylül University in İzmir, thinks highly of the efforts put forth by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in recent years, but believes Turkey’s potential is much greater. “After the restoration of several ruins around the country is completed, and museums at these ruins are opened, Turkey will stand a very good chance of significantly increasing the number of its historical sites on the tentative list,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.
At present, Turkey has nine sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, but the country’s potential is much greater. Ertuğrul Günay, minister of culture and tourism, recently admitted, in a session of Parliament, that he came to this realization when a Chinese tourist guide told him during a visit to Pamukkale a couple of years ago that Turkey should have at least 30 sites on the list, and that Turkey had so far failed to properly carry its historical riches to UNESCO’s agenda, given that countries such as France, Italy and Germany have around 40 sites on the list.
The addition of the Selimiye Mosque to the list marks the first time that a work by the great architect of Ottoman times, Mimar Sinan, has been included on the list. Günay is hopeful that Alanya, which was put on the tentative list in 2000, will be added to the list in the World Heritage Committee meeting next year. The ministry, after having dealt with deficiencies in the file formerly prepared for the Alanya Castle and dockyard, resubmitted it to UNESCO at the beginning of this year.
“Then Ephesus, Pergamum and Bursa’s historical center will follow to take their places on the list. All these sites will gradually enter the World Heritage List,” Günay said in Parliament. The performance of the ministry in bringing world attention to the historical riches of Turkey is praiseworthy because before Günay took office in 2007, the files regarding these sites were closed by the ministry, probably due to pessimism, in the belief that it would be almost impossible to get these riches to appear on the World Heritage List. “So, when it came to culture and tourism, people were just paying lip service, but no hard work was undertaken,” complained Günay.
The ancient city of Aphrodisias, located in the province of Aydın, was only proposed for the tentative list as a world heritage in 2009. It’s the same with the ancient cities of the Lycian civilization (in the provinces of Antalya and Muğla), the ancient cities of Perge (Antalya) and of Sagalassos (Burdur). Items from Sagalassos, which were displayed in Belgium this year by the ministry, attracted some 150,000 people. Göbeklitepe in Şanlıurfa, which is believed to be the world’s oldest temple, was only placed on the tentative list last year.
And Pergamum in İzmir, which gives its name to a world-renowned museum in Berlin in which items formerly taken from Pergamum during the Ottoman period are on display, was not even proposed for the tentative list until 2011. “We are now trying to put it on the World Heritage List,” Günay said.
Since -- in accordance with Article 108 of the application guide of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage -- the candidate sites need to have a management plan, the ministry is now busy preparing candidature files and management plans for historical sites which at the moment are on the tentative list, such as Aphrodisias, Ephesus, Pergamum, the Diyarbakır Castle and city walls, and the Eşrefoğlu Mosque.
Candidature files for Bursa and the Cumalıkızık early Ottoman urban and rural settlements and for Pergamum were sent for a preliminary evaluation to UNESCO’s World Heritage Center at the end of September. After making the necessary corrections suggested by the center, the candidature files will be finalized and resent to the center by Jan. 31 for evaluation in the World Heritage Committee meeting.
Turkey currently has 11 sites on the Heritage List:
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği
Historic Areas of İstanbul
Hattusha: the Hittite Capital
City of Safranbolu
Archaeological Site of Troy
Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex
Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük