Maltese, Turks unite to save historic cemetery

Published 28.09.2019 00:00

Maltese people and Turks united for the protection of a historical Turkish cemetery in Malta.

A group wanted to open a gas station in 2016 next to the cemetery in the Marsa district of the capital Valletta, but the plan was rejected due to an initiative by the Turkish Embassy in Malta.

The group instead decided to open a three-story industry workshop with carpentry and repair shops in the same location, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.

Not only Turks but the islanders have also attempted many times to preserve the Turkish Military Cemetery, also called the "Ottoman Taj Mahal."

"It is a fascinating and unique neo-Ottoman architectural work in Malta and the product of a fascinating relationship between the patron, Sultan Abdul Aziz Khan and the Maltese architect Emmanuele Luigi Galizia," said Conrad Thake, a history researcher and author of the book "The Ottoman Muslim Cemetery in Malta."

"The proposed development of a three-story high services garage facility would totally obliterate vistas of the Ottoman cemetery and its distinctive silhouette of different forms. Moreover, the proposed use of a service garage industry is totally incompatible," he added.

There have been several objections and representations from all quarters," said Thake, adding that he was the first to register his strong objections. "Others followed from different sources, the Embassy of Turkey in Malta, various NGOs in the heritage conservation sector such as Din L-Art Helwa and many individuals with a passion for local architectural heritage," he said.

Thake expressed his confidence that his thesis will be accepted and such an initiative would not be allowed in the first-level protected area, adding: "I would certainly expect the Planning Authority to refuse such an application without hesitation."

The appeal period for the construction of the industrial complex expired on Sept. 23, while the Maltese Planning Authority is expected to make its decision on applications and objections by Nov. 30.

In 1874, a cemetery was built for Turkish martyrs along with the great sailor Turgut Reis in Malta, which was besieged by Ottoman forces in 1565. Galizia, one of the renowned architects of Malta at the time, was in charge of the construction of the cemetery. A center of attention for its architecture, the cemetery includes the graves of 22 Turks who were taken captive to Malta by the British on various fronts during World War I and died in the siege. The historical cemetery of the Turkish martyrs is located in the Marsa district, 5 kilometers from Valletta.

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