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Turkey investigates DJ performance at Sumela monastery

Tourism ministry sent inspectors to investigate the incident as Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I contacted the minister with a letter
View of Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, northeastern Turkey (AFP/file photo)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

The Turkish government has launched an investigation into local officials who permitted the shooting of a music video at the former Orthodox Christian Sumela monastery in the northeastern province of Trabzon, a senior official told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.

A video released on social media over the weekend showed a DJ performing in the courtyard of the cliffside ruins.

Greece’s foreign ministry on Monday protested the footage and called on Turkish authorities "to do their utmost to prevent such acts from being repeated" and to respect the site, a candidate for Unesco's list of world heritage sites.

The Turkish official told MEE that Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I has sent a letter to Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, raising his concerns regarding the use of the former monastery, now a museum under restoration.

“We have sent inspectors to Trabzon to look into this incident,” the official said. 

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Euronews reported that the makers of the video clip had defended their decision, arguing the footage was shot in order to promote Sumela as a tourist attraction and that Turkish authorities had granted permission for the event.

Turkish news wire DHA reported on Tuesday that DJ Ahmet Senterzi and his colleagues Volkan Gunduz and Cengiz Can Atasoy shot a music video at the monastery with a team of 30 people. The team established a sound and music system and set up cameras.

Murat Cavga, the chairman of Tourism Managers and Travel Agencies Association, known as TISAD, criticised the move in remarks to Turkish media, saying that the DJ performance had no benefit to tourism as the venue is a former monastery which is open for prayers once a year. “It is mindblowing," he said. 

Founded in the 4th century, Sumela is a monastic complex built into a sheer cliff above the Black Sea forest in Trabzon. 

It was long ago stripped of its official religious status and operates as a museum administered by the Ministry of Culture in Turkey.

Thousands of tourists and Orthodox Christian worshippers journey to the monastery annually.

In 2010, Turkish authorities allowed the first Orthodox liturgy since ethnic Greeks were expelled in 1923 as part of a population exchange between Greece and Turkey. 

The Sumela monastery was shut for restoration in 2015 and reopened to tourists in 2019.

A liturgy to mark the Feast Day of the Virgin Mary was allowed in 2020 and 2021.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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