Marsa’s historic Turkish cemetery is in dire straits, according to Turkish expats and stakeholders, who are calling for the site to be restored.

Allowing this site to deteriorate further would be doing future generations a great disservice

Mario Borg Farrugia, a Muslim and former Nationalist Party councillor, said the site had fallen into disuse and disrepair ever since the opening of the Muslim cemetery in Paola in 2006.

Mr Borg Farrugia explained that Turkish Muslims applied for burial rights through the Turkish Embassy but maintenance of the Marsa charnel house had come to a halt since all requests were being directed to the new Paola site.

Designed by Maltese architect Emmanuel Luigi Galizia in 1874, the Arab-Indian-inspired crypt is thought to have replaced a slave burial site that was unearthed during road excavation works early last year.

Some historians posit the idea that the remains discovered during the road works could have been part of a makeshift burial site built during the Great Siege, linking the Galizia site to one of Malta’s most celebrated historic milestones.

A planning authority spokesman said that even though the cemetery had been listed as a scheduled building, its upkeep was the sole responsibility of the Turkish government.

It was originally funded by Turkish Sultan Abdul Aziz.

The Turkish Embassy has commissioned architect John Attard to oversee future restoration works.

Mr Attard said when contacted that while the building had suffered “extensive deterioration”, this had not threatened its structural integrity and was mostly “cosmetic”.

Restoration works are expected to begin after preliminary repairs to the site’s main boundary wall, where, on two separate occasions, traffic accidents had caused extensive damage.

The dilapidation has been a matter of concern for years and, in 2002, the Turkish news daily newspaper, Hurriyet, had taken the Turkish government to task over the state of the cemetery.

“Those responsible must save this Ottoman masterpiece from the ravages caused by more than 80 years of official neglect,” Hurriyet journalist T. Duggan had said.

Its sorry state is back on the public agenda and a Facebook group – Save the Turkish Cemetary (sic), Marsa, Malta – has been set up and has, so far, attracted 90 members.

Mario Farrugia, chairman of Maltese heritage trust Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, argued that even though the site fell under the jurisdiction of the Turkish government, it held significant Maltese historical value and efforts should be made to maintain the site.

“Allowing this site to deteriorate further would be doing future generations a great disservice,” he said.

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