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Seljuktian CemeteryTour Programmes

Thousand-year-old gravestones in Turkey's Seljuk Cemetery, one of the world's largest Muslim cemetery, are facing the threat of destruction, according to a cultural association. There are more than 8,000 gravestones dating from the first and 12th centuries in the 210-square-meter cemetery, located in the Ahlat district of the eastern province of Bitlis.

 

The stones, struggling to withstand the forces of erosion, feature Muslim versions of ancient Orhon inscriptions. We should not forget that the first written Turkish documents providing information on Turkish language, history, literature, art and tradition are on these gravestones, said Muzaffer Pirhasanoğlu, president of the Ahlat Association for the Protection and Promotion of Historical and Cultural Values, or AHTEK. Measures must be taken immediately Pirhasanoğlu argued such valuable cultural artifacts always needed preservation. "The Seljuk cemetery comes first among the places that must be preserved,� Pirhasanoğlu said.

 

�However, this place faces the threat of destruction because we cannot preserve it well. The gravestones in the cemetery, covered by moss and lichen, are all pieces of art, decorated with Ahlat stone. The moss and lichen on the stones must be cleared immediately because these are slowly eroding the stones. Some of the stones have been split into two. A quarter of the stones are gone and others are threatened. The natural elements are destroying the stones. If a solution is not offered soon, the Seljuk cemetery will be completely gone,� he said. Noting that the same consideration given to the church of Akdamar must be reflected in the Seljuk Cemetery, Pirhasanoğlu said: This is our essence, our culture, our everything. We should remember that the people of Turkey are from Ahlat first and then from Rize, Kayseri, Yozgat, Istanbul, Ankara or wherever. This is where we first set foot in Anatolia and all the nations' ancestors' graves are at the Seljuk Cemetery. Hence, it is our duty to protect this place.�

 

Projects are closely followed The association has been following closely the actions and projects regarding the Seljuk Cemetery, said Pirhasanoğlu. He said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism had a comprehensive project for the cemetery. "As part of this project, private lands around the cemetery have been expropriated. All these lands will be included in the cemetery, but the main problem is that the stones are being eroded. They should be protected so the graves can survive. Otherwise, the expropriation will be meaningless.�

 

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