Ayla Jean's Feed
Jun 6, 2014
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Muslims pray to turn Turkey’s greatest monument back into a mosque


(Hagia Sophia in Istanbul August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer )

It has served as the exalted seat of two faiths since its vast dome and lustrous gold mosaics first levitated above Istanbul in the 6th Century: Christendom’s greatest cathedral for 900 years and one of Islam’s greatest mosques for another 500.

Today, the Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya in Turkish, is officially a museum: Turkey’s most-visited monument, whose formally neutral status symbolizes the secular nature of the modern Turkish state.

Feb 28, 2014
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Generations on, Christians fleeing Syria return to Turkish homeland they once fled


(Syriac Christians from Turkey and Syria attend a mass at the Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church in the town of Midyat, in Mardin province of southeast Turkey February 2, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

When Louis Bandak fled the violence in Syria, he sought refuge in the country his grandfather was forced to abandon exactly 90 years ago this week.

Dec 24, 2013
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Turkish PM Erdogan and Muslim cleric Gulen tangle over corruption scandal


(A demonstrator holds a shoe box, as a reference to reported shoe boxes of cash found in the house of Halkbank CEO Suleyman Aslan, during a demonstration against Turkey’s ruling Ak Party (AKP) and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara December 21, 2013. The sign at left reads: “Government has to resign.” REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

A war of words escalated on Monday between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and a cleric with powerful influence in the police and judiciary, worsening political turmoil unleashed by a corruption scandal.

Aug 5, 2013
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Istanbul’s last White Russians pray for rooftop church’s survival


(Greek Orthodox priest Visarion of the Ecumenical Greek Orthodox Patriarchate (L) chats with a Russian Orthodox woman following a service at St. Elijah Church in Istanbul August 2, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer )

About 25 Russian Orthodox have celebrated a divine liturgy for the first time in four decades at their rooftop church they fear may be demolished to make way for a tourism project.

Jul 2, 2013
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Turkish Jews worried after politician links diaspora to recent protests


(Members of Turkey’s Jewish community gather at Etz Ahayim Synagogue to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Istanbul January 27, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer )

A Turkish deputy prime minister linked the “Jewish diaspora” to recent anti-government unrest and the country’s Jewish community expressed fears on Tuesday the comments could make them targets of popular anger.

Jun 3, 2013
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Simmering anger at Erdogan’s authoritarianism boils over in Turkey


(Protesters carry the Turkish flag and shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration at Gezi Park near Taksim Square in central Istanbul June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov)

Turkey’s most violent riots in decades may have been started by the destruction of a small Istanbul park, but they have exploded in a show of defiance at what many see as the creeping authoritarianism of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

May 29, 2012
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Thousands of Muslims pray for Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia to be a mosque again


(Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, 18 November 2004/Robert Raderschatt)

Thousands of devout Muslimshave prayed outside Turkey’s historic Hagia Sophia museum to protest a 1934 law that bars religious services at the former church and mosque.

Worshippers shouted, “Break the chains, let Hagia Sophia Mosque open,” and “God is great” before kneeling in prayer on Saturday as tourists looked on.

Mar 9, 2011
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Istanbul celebrates carnival after nearly 70 years


(Istanbul celebrates carnival, 7 March 2011/all photos by Jonathan Lewis)

Istanbul’s tiny Greek community has revived an all-but-extinct tradition by celebrating Bakla Horani, an evening of carousing at the end of carnival ahead of Lent. About 300 masked, painted and costumed revelers paraded on Monday through the streets of Istanbul’s Kurtulus district, known as Tatavla when it was home to Greeks decades ago.

The procession ended at a local hall where musicians performed rembetiko and cranked a laterna, a Greek mechanical piano. Partiers were served raki, the aniseed-flavoured spirit, and meze that featured beans. (Bakla Horani roughly translates as “eating beans,” referring to the austere Lenten diet that looms.)

Jan 31, 2011
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Amid row with Israel, Turkish officials attend Istanbul Holocaust Day


Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva and Istanbul Governor Avni Mutlu light a candle at Neve Shalom Synagogue to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day/Murad Sezer

In a rare show of unity with Istanbul’s dwindling Jewish community, government officials attended the country’s first official commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

Oct 15, 2010
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Turkey’s dwindling Christians fear end is approaching

(Photo: Andreas Zografos at St Nicholas Church in Heybeliada island near Istanbul October 10, 2010/Osman Orsal)

Andreas Zografos left Turkey in 1974 amid economic and political turmoil to find work in Europe, but he always knew he would return home. “The ties of this land are strong. I was drawn back by the blue of the sea, the colour of the sky,” he says.

A Greek Orthodox Christian, Zografos, 63, and his wife today tend to the 19th-century St Nicholas Church, where his grandfather painted vibrant icons, on Heybeliada, or Halki in Greek, an island off the Istanbul coast.