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Cambridge anticipates Erdoğan visit for Cambridge New Mosque’s opening

Turkey’s President was invited by Yusuf Islam

The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is coming to Cambridge tomorrow to open Cambridge Central Mosque.

Erdoğan was invited by Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, during Islam's visit to Turkey in November. Islam is a Patron of Cambridge Central Mosque.

The mosque opened in April, with the official inauguration set for tomorrow, 5th December.

Cambridge Central Mosque is Cambridge's first purpose-built mosque, and has been lauded as "a beautiful, approachable and eco-friendly new place of worship" by the Guardian.

Both the Turkish State and Islam are involved in the funding of the mosque, according to CambridgeshireLive. Turkey donated through its Doctorate of Religious Affairs way back in 2013 upon Islam's recommendation.

Cambridge Police have said that roads surrounding Mill Lane and Mill Lane itself will be closed.

The Turkish President is already in the UK due to the annual NATO Leaders meeting, held on Tuesday in London. The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Treasury and Finance and National Defence will also be joining him at the mosque opening.

Erdoğan is not an uncontroversial figure: in 2017, he won new powers in a referendum, enabling him to directly appoint top public officials, intervene in the legal system and impose a state of emergency onto Turkey. He faced a coup attempt prior to this in 2016, to which he responded with mass arrests and show trials.

He was elected as Prime Minister of Turkey in 2002, and served in this role before becoming President in 2014. President, at the time, was a supposedly ceremonial role.

The conflict between Turkey and the minority Kurdish people has worsened since the start of the Syrian conflict, with Turkey viewing the Kurdish People's Protection Units as terrorist organisations. The Turkish State does not recognise Kurdistan, despite the attempts of the Kurdish people to gain more autonomy.

Cambridge Stop the War Coalition, Cambridge rs21 (a local chapter of Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century), Cambridge Social Ecology and Cambridge Kurdistan Solidarity are coordinating a protest on King's Parade on the day of the visit.

On the Facebook event, they say they will be "standing in solidarity with the Turkish community against Turkish war crimes and against the oppression of anyone who dare to protest against the Turkish Government".

There has been a previous rally in Cambridge against Erdoğan this year, held on 20th October 2019, over the Turkish invasion of Rojava in solidarity with the people of Kurdistan.

Priyamvada Gopal, a well-known member of the Faculty of English, also critiqued the visit, calling Erdoğan a "warmongering Turkish chauvinist".

Photo credits: Erdoğan Flickr