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DIPLOMACY >Turkey’s TİKA changes strategy in favor of development projects

Sevil ERKUŞ - SARAJEVO

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Memories are fresh of the Second World War in multi-ethnic Bosnia where Turkey’s cooperation agency takes sides with fellow Bosniacs and makes remarkable projects for development of the country, including preservation of massive heritage of Ottoman Empire in the region. 

TİKA has been changing it policy on humanitarian aid and tends to focus on development projects, Deputy Prime Minister Kaynak told Hürriyet Daily News.

Extensive restoration and development projects by the Turkish Cooperation and
Coordination Agency (TİKA) bring tourism gain for all citizens of the country, therefore Christian communities display less and less doubtful approach for the agency’s works, according to Mahmut Çevik, head of the Balkans and Central Europe department of TİKA. 

A 16th-century Ottoman mosque in Bosnia which was damaged during the country’s 1992-1995 war was re-opened for prayers on May 12 after restored with help from the TİKA. First erected in 1501 by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezıd II, the mosque was destroyed by Serb forces in 1992. It was one of 12 mosques damaged or destroyed during the brutal conflict.   

The restoration of Emperor’s “Hünkar Mosque” in Foca of Republika Srpska entity was not initially much welcomed by the local Serbs of the town, even some said the restoration will not succeed, according to TİKA officials. 

A silent consent after flows of tourists

But as they observed these historical restoration projects will benefit all as tourism revenue of the town, Christian locals have given a silent consent, the officials say. The agency does not hesitate to make the restoration although the town had only 52 remaining Bosniak families, while Muslim community was more than half of the town’s population ahead of the war. 

After the opening ceremony of the Hünkar Mosque on May 12 with Bosniak member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Presidential Council Bakir İzzetbegoviç, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak meets with the prominent Bosniak figures, including former Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister of the Federation of Bosnia Hasan Cengic who has raised the human wants of the Muslim community.

Cengic asks TİKA to invest on animal breeding for Bosniaks in a small town. He also tells that they were not able to access water after midnight till 06.00 in the morning and reminded that water pumps provided by Turkey were delayed and asks for acceleration of the process before the month of Ramadan.  Deputy Prime Minister held an immediate phone call with head of Istanbul Waterworks Authority’s (İSKİ) to speed up the deliver. 

“It’s the most beautiful mosque of the Balkans. We receive thousands of tourists from Arabic countries, Turkey and Europe. Restoration of this mosque has remarkably increased visiting tourists of the city,” Muhedin Spahiç, local mufti of  Banja Luka in Republika Srpska entity said referring to one of the oldest mosques in Bosnia, Ferhadija Mosque which was renovated with the help of TİKA. Some 200-300 tourists are visiting daily, while this number can reach from 1500 to 2000 at the weekend, he added. 

The Ferhadija Mosque was built in 1579 by Sanjak Bey Ferhat Pasha and is considered one of the greatest achievements of Ottoman-inspired Islamic architecture in Europe.

However, during the Bosnian war the mosque was demolished by the army of Republika Srpska.

“Not only for Muslims, Ferhadija Mosque is important for all of us with regards to its architecture,” Adnan Jusiç, a Bosniak from Banja Luka said.

“After the restoration of the mosque, our Orthodox friends has thanked us saying that one piece had been taken from the people of the city when the mosque was destroyed,” Jusiç said recalling that Ferhadija Mosque was a rendezvous point for the locals before the war. 



TİKA is asked to help for restoration of cathedral in Mostar 


The agency, established right after the Bosnian War, is responsible for implementing Turkey’s developmental cooperation policies overseas in 154 countries and has completed more than 800 projects in the country so far. TİKA has mostly been heard by its restoration projects in Balkans, but development and aid projects predominate their work such as restored homes affected by the 2014 flood disaster in northern Bosnia-Herzegovina’s city of Maglaj and support to organic agricultural sector.

The budget of the agency’s work corresponds to 271 million US Dollars as of 2016, and the TİKA has been finalized more than 2000 projects,  with ongoing 44 projects in Bosnia Herzegovina.  

The scale of projects is so wide from work against harelip syndrome in Uzbekistan to early to early pregnancy problems in African continent. The agency also builds parliament building of Somalia, along with a military base where Turkish military will train Somalian security forces against terror. 

The cooperation agency is asked to finish the restoration of the great cathedral of Mostar, Deputy Prime Minister Kaynak said as part of the institution’s extensive restoration work on Ottoman heritage in the Balkans.

“These are our common heritage, common cultural values,” he said speaking at before a concert by Israeli contra tenor David D’or on May 14 in Edirne Synagogue on May 14.

May/20/2017

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