Cell phone footage of restoration workers drilling down the stone wall of Istanbul’s 14th-century Galata Tower created a political firestorm. An officer of the Istanbul Municipality tweeted a clip of two restoration workers taking apart a corner section of the tower’s inner wall with jackhammers. A pile of large stones lay at their feet as they worked.
Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy explained in his own tweet a few hours later that the workers were removing “parts that were added (to the wall) later on and that were damaging the Galata Tower.
But he said that the workers responsible were reprimanded nonetheless.
“Regarding the techniques used in the restoration, the necessary sanctions have taken against the relevant contractor,” the minister tweeted.
Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Ahmet Misbah Demircan explained that the workers were transforming a part of the tower that used to house a restaurant into a museum.
“Sections that are not related to the original function of the building and parts made without permission over time are removed. It is not appropriate for us to remove plaster on walls with jackhammers,” said Demircan, who is also the former mayor of the district where the tower is located.
“Restoration works have been intervened and the necessary actions have been started by drawing the attention of the building contractor,” he said.
The iconic 67-meter structure overlooking the Golden Horn is a massive draw for tourists and an enduring symbol of Istanbul.
It was the ancient city’s tallest structure when completed by the Genoese in 1348.
“It was really shocking to see this kind of vandalism being performed in the most important cultural site of Istanbul,” the municipality’s cultural heritage department director Mahir Polat said.
“This conduct is insane,” he added.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu reacted to the footage that showed workers jackhammering the walls of the tower.
“We had said that they would betray history when the Galata Tower was taken from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and handed over to the Culture and Tourism Ministry. Stop this betrayal, which you are trying to shield with a restoration cover,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a tweet.
In May, the ministry took over the authority to operate the Galata Tower from the municipality.
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality spokesperson Murat Ongun noted that they will file criminal complaints against all responsible parties one by one.
Hurriyet Daily News