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I am visiting your city for the first time, and I believe my failure to come earlier has two reasons. First, somehow, my path never crossed Bitlis, and secondly, you have failed to promote your city and to inspire a wish in me to visit. Furthermore, there has yet to be a hotel with the required quality to host a quest. There is this frequent talk about the hospitality of the people of this country, but how accurate is it? Today, hosting visitors to our cities at our homes is out of the question. To accommodate our guests, the visitors to our cities, we need to build hotels, motels, restaurants, and equip these to meet the requirements of a modern individual. Sometimes, I look at some of our cities and wonder, “Why don’t these cities have any hotels? Could it be because these people don’t want strangers to visit their cities?”


Today, we must realize the fact that capital does not solely consist of money; for instance, information is a much more important investmen tool than cash capital. Likewise, whilw we may not be aware of it here in this country, the cultural assets that have been created throughout the course of centuries are also a form of capital that must be preserved. In fact, when you know how to use it sensibly and manage to promote it well, this is much more valuable than cash as capital. For, its customers are already waiting in line: today, people are increasingly more willing to go on trips, to see, to learn, to eat, and to drink. As the per capita income increases so does people’s interest in seeing and learning about their surroundings.


For this, we need to be aware of our tangible and intangible assets, and intangible assets, and offer them to the people in a modern fashion. Our country stretches across a vast geography that raises curiosity with its cultural wealth in both our compatriots and foreign tourists alike – one that must be visited and seen. However, the first order of business to achieve this would be to make our existing capital attractive and to provide convenient means of transportation to the destination as well as the indispensible modern accommodation and dining facilities there.


Ever since I could remember, Ministers of Tourism in our country have always spoken about an impending tourism boom for the coming year and an imminent multiplication in the number of both domestic and foreign tourists. But nothing grows and develops unless you put your labor in it and carry out the required work to achieve it. Unless you make use and take care of your capital as is due, and put in sufficient labor, that business will fail and you will go bankrupt.


Unfortunately, a great complacency has descended on our society throughout the centuries; for instance, regarding his visit to Bitlis in the 17th century, Evliya Çelebi speaks in his memoirs of a book auction held in this city. In an entertaining language, he tells about the story of a very valuable Shahnameh sold in this auction. I guess it is even out of the question to hold a book auction in Bitlis today; and let alone an auction, how many bookstores are there in Bitlis that carry books other than those for preparation to university entrance exams?


Although I saw very beautiful and precious structures during my one-day trip to the city, almost all of these have been misused and treated as structures that should vanish, but hold on to their existence in spite of us. These structures and their stories, however, constitute our capital, and instead of smartly leveraging and developing on this capital, it is as if we are purposely trying to ignore their existence due to our ineptitude, and to a greater extent, due to the bureaucratic approach to protection.


It’s about time that we act more cleverly. Instead of destroying this wealth brought to us by the past centuries, we must explore ways of benefitting from it and enriching our society through it. From what I have seen, no matter how pleased their owners or inhabitants may be, there is not a single structure in this city, which I can call a work of modern architecture – one I would be pleased to see, to walk around, and to inhabit. All of the structures that I photographed, which I believe would benefit me in the future, and which I was pleased to see, were those we inherited from the past.


Maybe due to the difficulties they had experienced, founders of the Republic set out with the premise that the cities in Turkey would never become museum cities but erected as modern cities. Unfortunately, because of such line of thinking and subsequent master plans, we unwittingly squandered this capital, which had taken centuries to build up. Centainly, our so-called intellectuals have also played a major role in this failure. In general, rather than renovating the cultural assets that need to be preserved for the welfare and happiness of our people, and ensuring their contemporary use, we have always strived to protect them against the vandalism of our own people. According to this twisted way of thinking that emanated from and still has significant currency in Ankara bureaucracy in particular, our people know nothing and their sole desire is to vandalize and destroy everything. In the meantime, the intellectuals, this thinking goes, should look after the structures that must be protected.


Nothing that ignorest the human element and his joy of life, or that prevents enrichment, may subsist forever by means of protection through legal power, by the force of police or gendarmerie. There is one thing I have said many times on many occasions, which I would like to express once again before you. Please listen to me carefully, and you will see what I mean and where we are making a mistake. When you use the word protection in noun, verb, adjective or any other form, your audience may better understand your point. However, when you say DON’T PROTECT as a state with a loud voice, and even by shouting, in the from of an order, you should not ask “What is happening?”, “Why are we having such difficult time in protecting our past?”, “Why are we having such difficult time in protecting our past?”, “Why are these structures being destroyed?” Because, on the one hand, you already issue the order DON’T PROTECT, but then get surprised by the failure. I advise my beloved colleagues and high state officials who are angaged in the issue to take a look at the issue also from this perspective. Personally, I am not fond of complaining or criticizing others, so let us look at what we can do from now on. In 1970, Prof. Oluş Arık published the book “Bitlis Yapılarında Selçuklu Rönesansı” [Seljuk Renaissance in Bitlis Structures] in 1970, I believe as hic associate professorship thesis. In this work, he examined mosques, small mosques, shrines, madrassahs, small Islamic monasteries, and Turkish baths in Bitlis as well as two inns outside the city. There are 36 monumental structures that should be placed under protection Bitlis city center and surroundings, and almost all of them are very run-down with the exception of shrines and places of worship. He failed to include residential buildings in this study, which are actually much more important. For one must know about the structures occupied by the very people that created and passed such monumental buildings on to us, and about the cultural environment that produced this important heritage.


For one day, you may be confronted with the argument: “True, there are some monumental structures in this region, but these were commissioned by those who ruled the area for a period, and who were in fact a minority in the population, and these structures emerged because they held the power of the state. “Accordingly, we also have to protect the examples of civic architecture and the intangible cultural heritage that constituted this life, which are just as important as the monumental structures. How did the people of this culture lived, dined, clothed? How was their daily lives? How was the cultural environment? We must know about the commercial life, literature, music, and entertainment of the period so that we can choose a new path for ourselves in which we can advance towards the future.


Future belongs only to those who have sufficiently studied their past and based the future thereon. Now, a new university is about to be opened in your city. The goal of a university is to provide education. Please take note that I said education, and not instruction. Education can only succeed by learning about and researching the past, and reaching the footprints of the past.


In today’s global world, we are living in a new age where almost everything takes a few minutes to reach us. We are facing a great cultural shock, and unless we get to know ourselves and our past better, we are bound to vanish in this increasingly complex world. We must work harder and research better to ensure the welfare and well being of the future generations. We may lack the resources to do this: many researchers and academicians experience significant difficulties in carrying out their studies. Nevertheless we should beer in mind that unless we suffer now, the future generations will suffer even more. Let us not forget that the difficulties experienced and sacrifices made by the people during the Industrial Revolution in today’s developed countries were incredibly painful.


Despite all these adversities, Bitlis city center may be renovated. In 2006, having seen the great difficulty in doing something through theexisting procedures, the government provided certain facilities with the Renovation Law no. 5366. Also thanks to the contribution of the university, this law may be executed for Bitlis city center. The efforts to achieve this should commence immediately, because the dynamics to be created by the university in a short period of time will make significant contributions in Bitlis’ economy, and help bring prosperity to the region.


This dynamic will lead to the erection of new structures as well as significant renovation in other structures. Before this almost irresistible wave arrives, planning for the city center must be completed, and this planning must include permament provisions and suggestions that may not be altered no matter who requested it. Such a decision may be successful only if it is taken and implemented by the Mayor and the City Council who are elected by the society on their free will. Such an undertaking should not be started by the impositions of the central authority because in almost all cases, efforts imposed from the top end in bitter disappointment for all of us.


Each project carried out without the consent of the society becomes a mare’s nest and impositions come to a dead end. Both the state and local governments have a hard time getting results by playing the police or gendarmerie, and punitive actions, and thus vanish the marks of the past in our cities, that is the capital created throughout the centuries. It is high time that the opposite of this simplistic method is tried, and that we experience the happiness of doing something by pursuing a path other than what we have been accustomed to such as jointly leveraging this capital by means of earning the trust the people, weighing in their opinions, convincing them, and including all in the project, which may be harder at the beginning.


As someone visiting your city for a short period of time, I certainly would like to see the people of Bitlis benefit from what modern life has to offer. New roads, new neighborhoods, new structures will certainly be built in Bitlis. However, all these construction activity should not mean the destruction of the old culture. Your existing capital has never been, and will probably never be, enough to create a Bitlis that will win world’s recognition, or set an example to it. However, I believe that it can help claim and exalt this cultural wealth created by the people of Bitlis throughout the millennia, and present it to the world.


The only thing to do to ensure this would be to refrain from expanding within the existing Bitlis and to accept it as a heritage from our ancestors, renovate and preserve it as the most valuable treasure of our city. This renovated city will generate significant economic power by means of both tourism and commerce. Rather than a generic city the place of which in the world is impossible to ascertain, we should be the residents of a city unique to us, living our manners and customs, which will also position us differently among the humanity, which becomes increasingly complex and suffers from an identity crisis.


I can continue this address forever, and please don’t think that I am trying to give you advice, to tell you what to do and how to live your life. I am trying to do my share to help the people of our country leave this dead-end street in which they have been wandering for a long time and head towards the future on much broader streets. For a long time now, I have been trying to explain to our people in every opportunity I get that different perspectives may also exist. Only time will show how successful I have been in this pursuit and how correct the results of my undertaking will be, but I believe that the future will be happier and brighter for all of us.