Expenses related to the construction and maintenance of the Çamlıca Mosque, one of the megaprojects of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the largest mosque in the country, have exceeded $290 million, according to a report in the Cumhuriyet daily on Friday.
The mosque on İstanbul’s Çamlıca Hill on the Asian side of the city, which was designed to accommodate 63,000 people and is also a complex that includes a museum of Turkish Islamic art, a library, an art gallery, a conference hall and workshops as well as a parking lot to accommodate 3,500 cars, was opened in March 2019.
Citing data from the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, which has been run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) since early 2019, the daily said a total of $290,601,510 had been spent on the lighting, cleaning, security and other expenses of the mosque, in addition to its construction, which started in early 2013.
The expenses for lighting the mosque amount to $6.64 million, Cumhuriyet said, quoting then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s remarks back in November 2012 when he announced the megaproject, saying, “It [the Çamlıca Mosque] will be seen from everywhere in İstanbul.”
Erdoğan’s great passion for mosques is visible in the statistical data released by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which has shown that the number of mosques in the country increased from 75,941 in 2002, when the ruling AKP came to power, to 89,445 at the end of 2020.
Most recently, the president inaugurated the first mosque in İstanbul’s popular Taksim Square, eight years to the day after the 2013 Gezi protests that shook his government began there.
With a capacity to accommodate 4,000 people and combining Ottoman and contemporary features, the mosque was opened on May 28 as part of Erdoğan’s bid to satisfy his pious and conservative electoral base during a period of growing economic difficulties.
The construction of the mosque, which began in 2017, was criticized, with some opponents accusing Erdoğan of seeking to “Islamize” the country and displace the founder of the secular modern republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.