Historical Istanbul cemetery plundered by treasure hunters

A 400-year-old Istanbul cemetery that includes the tombs of figures who served in Ottoman palaces has been plundered by treasure hunters.

The tombs at the Ayrılık Çeşme Cemetery on Istanbul's Asian side have been looted or damaged by unidentified people who dug the area illegally with the goal of finding gold and historical artifacts, according to a claim made by an expert.

The photos confirm that most of the tombstones were either broken, destroyed or some of the head parts fell down to the ground.

Halit Mestane, a historian and writer, said that there were tombs of significant figures of the Ottoman palaces in the cemetery and the decorations on the tombstones are of unique value, stressing that the area was neglected for a long time.

Noting that the area was a part of Karacaahmet Cemetery which clocks in at 700 years old and is known as one of the oldest and biggest cemeteries in the country, the historian emphasized that the surrounding road and expropriation works also damaged the area.

"Many stones are now gone. There were a few attempts related to this place, but the result could not go beyond hanging a sign. The cemetery is getting worse day by day," he stressed.

"This place will disappear completely one day if we don't take care of it," Mestane said.

It is believed that the area was first used as a burial site for soldiers who died when Istanbul was sieged by Muslims in the 13th century but has since been the final resting place for many more people of different faiths.

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