ANTALYA – Turkish Daily News
Founded near the Köprüçay River, or Eurymedon River as it was called in ancient times, in Antalya's Serik district, the ancient Greco-Roman city Aspendos is known worldwide for its theater of antiquity. One of the best preserved such sites in the world, Aspendos is now faced with the possibility of construction of an exhibition center within the protected area. Although it is not legally permissible to build any facility of either a commercial or artistic nature in the region, the city has announced its authorization of the exhibition center project.
�It is by all means necessary to construct large-scale meeting and show centers and to hold cultural and artistic events of international character in Antalya; however, it is hard to conceive of the allocation of historically important sites for activities with a commercial starting point and private initiative,� said Kemal Özgen, chairman of the Antalya Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Private sector should be encouraged
�The restoration of these works of art should be conducted with the support of the state or a private sponsor but without pursuing any commercial purpose. The private sector should be encouraged to engage in this kind of activity with such incentives as tax exemptions,� said Özgen.
It is acceptable to use sites of historical importance for a limited number of symbolic activities that will certainly contribute to the international reputation of Turkey, noted Özgen, who also said that the use of Aspendos and Perge for activities all year long would be similar to using Topkapı Palace in Istanbul as a hotel.
�It will contribute to the international publicity of Turkey'
�Having just concluded the 15th Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival, we are now engaged in restoration works of the ancient theater of Aspendos,� İbrahim Acar, chairman of Antalya Culture and Tourism Department, told the Turkish Daily News.
Following the decision of the Antalya Protection Board and in accordance with protected area regulations, Antalya's Aspendos region is to host a new exhibition center, or rather, a culture center, mainly for tourists coming to visit the city, noted Acar, adding, �It will be a prefabricated structure of steel construction; thus, it can be easily dismantled and rebuilt whenever the need arises without harming the natural fabric.�
The new cultural center will be built with the sponsorship of Fire of Anatolia (Anadolu Ateşi), a Turkish dance group, and will have a capacity of 4,500 people, Acar noted. �It is not meaningful to oppose the further development of Antalya with this kind of cultural center. We all do our best to protect this 2,000-year-old natural and cultural heritage,� added Acar, in response to a question regarding concerns about the new construction harming the Aspendos region.
�All we aim for with the construction of these hotspots is to take the tourists out of the giant hotel complexes where they are squeezed in during the time they stay in Turkey in order to facilitate for them to know about the other jewels around,� said Acar, who emphasized that the new formation in Aspendos will help the image of the country on the world stage.
Academics oppose the decision
�Antalya's Aspendos is an important ancient center and it is necessary to conduct some restoration work on it from time to time. This would be a static maintenance. However, it is a terrible mistake to construct such a center within the protected area,� Professor Mehmet Celal Özdoğan, chairman of the Pre-History Discipline of the Archeology Department of Istanbul University, told the TDN.
�Such a formation in the heart of the ancient city will definitely harm the natural and cultural landscape, an important concept within �cultural environment.' This is against all the international maxims and visions,� Özdoğan said, emphasizing that construction within a protected area such as Aspendos will also trigger other such poor practices in Turkey.
According to Özdoğan, the Antalya Protection Board's approval of the decision does not mean the correctness of the practice, adding this can only mean the creation of a false legal base for the decision.