Bosnia's war-battered mosques rise from ashes

Ferhat Pasha Mosque.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's Islamic Union Directorate of Foundations and the Turkish Directorate General of Foundations (VGM) will jointly rebuild three mosques that were badly hit during the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995.

The two organizations recently signed an agreement for the joint project in Sarajevo. The program was attended by the head of VGM Artworks and Construction Works Department Suat Faruk Giray, and Senaid Zajimovic, the director of Bosnia-Herzegovina Islamic Union Directorate of Foundations.

The project comes with a TL 14 million ($2.5 million) price tag. It will see the reconstruction of three important Ottoman-era mosques - the Atik Behram Bey Mosque in Tuzla province, Ferhad Pasha Mosque in Banja Luka province and Kızlarağası Mosque in Mrkonic Grad.

In a statement at the signing ceremony, Giray said that these mosques were humanity's common cultural heritage. "The mosques are evidence that Muslims lived in these lands. They all faced a devastating war but we hope we will be able to restore them," he said.

He reminded that the VGM started its activities in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2012 with the restoration of the historic Isa Begov Hamam (Bathhouse).

"We have since expanded our works in Bosnia," he said, adding that they carried out 15 projects in the country as yet. "These projects make up around 30 percent of our 50 projects aboard. This shows how much importance we attach to Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Giray explained that the VGM does not just repair historic buildings but it also works to sustain the foundations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The restoration project of the three mosques was thought up in 2017 with the signing of a protocol. Giray said that the Sama Construction Company from Bursa will start works within a months' time.

He said that they will do everything to sustain the Ottoman Empire's cultural heritage. "We have been carrying out restoration works at the Alaca Mosque in Foca, Arnavudiye Mosque in Banja Luka and Sinan-Bey Mosque in Cajnice, which were also demolished in the Bosnian war. These three mosques were completely destroyed. So, they will rise from the ashes."

'Turkey's support is essential'

Zajimovic said that VGM's support was priceless and added that, "The VGM projects include religious constructions as well as educational institutions here."

He hoped their collaborations with the VGM would continue in the future and said, "With our collaboration, we protect Bosnia's Islamic tradition and the Ottoman heritage in these lands."

The total cost of VGM's projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina exceeds almost 25 million euros. "Turkey's support is essential to rebuilding the mosques in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The projects in question are not the ones that we can do by ourselves," Director Zajimovic continued.

Recep Sırmacı, an official at the Bursa Sama Construction Company, said that they have been rest orating building in Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2014.

Sırmacı stressed that they will not refrain from supporting the works done to sustain the Ottoman heritage.

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