Protest in King’s Parade over arrival of President Erdoğan of Turkey for Cambridge Central Mosque opening
Protesters gathered in central Cambridge this afternoon to voice their anger at the arrival of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is visiting for the official opening of Cambridge Central Mosque.
Cambridge Stop The War Coalition, Cambridge Kurdistan Solidarity, Cambridge rs21 and Cambridge Social Ecology launched the protest at 1pm.
They spoke out against Turkey for alleged war crimes against Kurdish people in northern Syria.
Shortly after, in Mill Road, the president arrived amid tight security at the mosque, which has the prayer capacity for 1,000 people.
President Erdoğan has been in Watford this week for the NATO summit and was invited to the opening by mosque patron Yusuf Islam, also known as the singer-songwriter Cat Stevens.
Cambridge City Council’s Labour leader Cllr Lewis Herbert said it was important that visit of President Erdoğan did not overshadow the official opening of the mosque.
While he stressed he did not welcome Erdoğan’s visit to the city and wishes he had not come, he said he wanted to keep the focus on the opening of “possibly the best” mosque in the UK, which he said brings many positives to the city.
“For me, today is a celebration of the opening of a wonderful new building and a place of worship for Muslims in Cambridge, which they are rightly proud of, and it’s also a celebration in Cambridge of the unity of people of different faiths, and of no faith. Because I know the city really welcomes the mosque,” he said.
“Today is not about Erdoğan, and I hope that this sort of controversial and late-notice visit will not distract the focus of reporters and residents from the fact that we have much to celebrate. Yes, he was invited by Yusuf Islam we understand. And Cambridge City Council had no say in that. We also know that the security prompted by his controversial visit will cause significant disruption to residents today as well. But we focus on the great joy of today – the opening of a new Cambridge mosque.
“I do not support president Erdogan coming to Cambridge. I wish he was not coming. But he is a guest of the mosque, and I respect the fact that Turkish funders contributed a large sum of money to a stunning building, possibly the best mosque currently in the UK, and I understand why they feel gratitude given that it was difficult to raise the money to complete the building. But I don’t welcome him, and Labour councillors don’t welcome him, given he doesn’t embody the values that the mosque and the integration and inclusion that we have in Cambridge is all about.”
Cllr Herbert added: “In addition to being a place of worship, this is probably the greenest mosque in Britain, and already one of the greenest buildings in Cambridge, and everyone has the opportunity to go and see it because being part of our community the mosque has an open day welcoming all comers this Saturday, including cultural material, an exhibition on Islamic science, because of the huge number of breakthroughs that we benefit from, and all sorts of activities of people of all ages. So I also urge people to get along Mill Road and see the mosque this Saturday.”
The free open day takes place from 10.30am-4pm on Saturday.