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Taking Politics to the Grave

Former Turkish Ambassador Kaan Esener paying his respects at the graveside of Ottoman Consul General Mehmet Remzi's on 21.09.2012, at the Nizamiye Cemetery. Image: Supplied

Former Turkish Ambassador Kaan Esener paying his respects at the graveside of Ottoman Consul General Mehmet Remzi's on 21.09.2012, at the Nizamiye Cemetery. Image: Supplied

Published Jan 20, 2022

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By Mirza Aydin

I came across stories in the Turkish and South African media about re-burial of last Ottoman Consul General Mehmet Remzi Efendi in Braamfontein cemetery in Johannesburg.

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I thought I should share the information I had and gathered on the matter. It seems the family is involved in the process and there seems to be respect for it which I agree with. However, the way the Turkish Embassy has politicised the matter is opportunism at the very least.

It seems, the embassy were supportive of the move from Braamfontein to Midrand, at least did not raise any objection. They visited the complex and the grave numerous times participating in religious and national celebrations. In addition, almost entire Turkish community at the time were jubilant about the move as Nizamiye Complex was becoming a hub of activity and attraction. Those who visited the complex could learn about Remzi Efendi. The burial was attended by a big crowd of Muslims.

Mr. Lowe, one of the grandsons of Remzi Efendi, who lives in Sydney visited Nizamiye Complex in 2013 and expressed his appreciation of the Nizamiye’s efforts which was reported in Turkish media at the time.

Many in the Turkish community, including those who are afraid even to pray at the mosque today as they might be profiled and targeted by Turkish authorities, were in agreement that such a structure is a contribution to the city as a point of attraction for tourism.

Ambassador’s claim that the mosque exploited the grave for “selfish interests” sounds unreasonable and biased as the visitors. Visiting the complex is free and open to all. They do not spread any political propaganda but focus on cultural and religious matters. Yet, as usual, ambiguous accusations have been levelled with no specific details.

It is sad that Turkish embassy in Pretoria keeps importing their domestic political problems into South Africa demanding that local communities, especially the Muslim community get involved in their politics. Terrorism charge is common accusation that governments use with political motivation and should not be taken lightly. It should be based on credible and concrete information which is absent in this case.

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Instead resolving the matter amicably, a political show has been staged and the comments made by the embassy gives away such an intention. They have expressed that “they” (Turkey) have recovered the remains of Mehmet Remzi Effendi as if it has been hidden somewhere. A foreign country manipulating a local matter for their political aims is an exploitation and interference. I hope the local leadership sees this unbecoming political act which can harm the fabric of the local community. Unity and dialogue is better than division and conflict. Adopting a position without listening to all sides is unethical and un-Islamic.

* Mirza Aydin is a Turkish writer

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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