Istanbul hosts international symposium on Jerusalem

2-day symposium brings together local and international politicians, academics, and clergymen in Istanbul

Anadolu Agency

Any effort to address the issue of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Muslims, is very important, said a top Turkish religious official Saturday.

“Today what is happening in every part of the Islamic world where the tears and blood flow without halt, in Rakhine [Myanmar], in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, this is related to memory,” Yavuz Unal, the deputy head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, told the opening of a two-day international symposium on rights violations in Jerusalem.

Unal said the symposium in Istanbul would serve to help Palestinians, most of whom are living in exile, and “most importantly they have to pass through identity checkpoints to go to their own houses or fields”.

The International Jerusalem Symposium aims to evaluate violations of rights in the region as well as help raise international awareness of these violations, according to the organizers.

The organizers said the event -- organized by the Istanbul-based NGO Burak Foundation, Umraniye Municipality, and Istanbul Medeniyet University -- would bring together local and international politicians, academics, and clergymen.

The city of Jerusalem is sacred to members of all three Abrahamic faiths -- Muslims, Jews and Christians -- and the Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the Islamic world's third-holiest site.

This July tension was high in the region over restrictions set by Israel at Al-Aqsa, in the wake of violence near the compound.

Erdogan thanked for supporting holy city

Also speaking at the Istanbul event, former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ekrima Sabri thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “being on our side and supporting Jerusalem”.

El Bachir Jarallah, who heads the Istanbul-based rights group Parliamentarians for Al Quds (Jerusalem), founded to support the Palestinian cause, stressed the importance of international symposiums, and said Muslims should work hard to protect Jerusalem.

Istanbul Medeniyet University Rector Ihsan Karaman said that Turkey has the duty to properly explain Jerusalem to the younger generations.

Karaman said that he believed meetings on Jerusalem would help revive an awareness in the country and produce “good politics”.

Adem Yenihayat, head of the Istanbul-based Burak Foundation, said that participants from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Bahrain, and Qatar were taking part in the symposium.

Yenihayat also said that an exhibition called “Jerusalem: From the Ottoman Archive” would be open to visitors.

Speaking at the same event, Hasan Can, the mayor of Istanbul’s Umraniye district, said that Jerusalem’s past, present, and future will be discussed at the symposium, and a book will be published at its conclusion.

On the tension in the region over the restrictions at Al-Aqsa, Can said Turkish people gave the strongest response to this by staging a protest in Istanbul.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In 1980, it annexed the entire city, claiming it as the Jewish state’s “eternal” capital, in a move never recognized by the international community.