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The New Arab Staff

Anger as Turkey begins razing historic Ottoman-era brewery

The Bomonti brewery in an Ottoman-era postcard [SALTOnline/Creative Commons]

Date of publication: 20 July, 2020

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Turkey's top religious authority plans to turn a historic brewery into a mosque and Islamic cultural centre.
Turkey began demolishing a historic brewery this weekend, a year after the Ottoman-era building that once manufactured beer was sold to a state religious authority, local media reported.

Images of a bulldozer tackling a part of the Bomonti Beer Factory in Istanbul have caused outrage on Turkish social media.

Opened in 1894, the brewery was Turkey's first modern beer producer.

The Bomonti brand remains one of the most popular in the country today, although production halted at the Istanbul site in the 1990s. Part of the building was later sold and converted into a cultural complex.

The brewery was sold to Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, also known as Diyanet, which is the country's top religious authority and presides over more than 80,000 mosques.

An Islamic cultural centre and mosque will be built one the site of the Ottoman-era brewery after demolition is complete, the Diyanet said last year. 

Ongoing demolition works of historic buildings have caused outrage among some sections of Turkish society.

Critics of the razing of the Bomonti complex say it is one of few remaining examples of Ottoman industrial architecture, and its destruction is part of a wider government-backed scheme to homogenise Istanbul.

"Another piece of Istanbul's industrial heritage has been sacrificed to the hegemony of political Islam and to the love for construction, concrete and tenders," Twitter user Akif Burak Atlar wrote in a widely shared tweet.

Another user of the platform replied: "These [the government] are the ones who shout we are the Ottomans... and the ones who destroyed a factory built by [Sultan] Abdul Hamid [II]."

Twitter user Gurcan Gulersoy chimed in, comparing the demolition to the decision to convert Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

"I did not care too much about Hagia Sophia's conversion to a mosque, simply because it is an inherently reversible decision; it can be undone. However, Turkey doesn't lack irreversible decisions aimed at destroying natural and cultural heritage, and they pose a far greater risk," Gulersoy wrote.

"For this reason, I think that the destruction of Bomonti Brewery is a far greater attack on Istanbul's cultural heritage than the conversion of Hagia Sophia. Once it's gone, it's gone. The brewery building could have been repurposed in so many ways."

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