Turkey's President Erdogan opens Cambridge 'eco-mosque'

Turkey's President Erdogan opens Cambridge 'eco-mosque'

  • 5 December 2019
Image caption Police officers from several forces were drafted in for the occasion

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attended the official opening of a mosque in Cambridge.

The Central Mosque in Mill Road, which cost £23m and has the capacity for 1,000 worshippers, has been billed as "Europe's first eco-mosque".

A group of about 40 supporters welcomed the arrival of his cavalcade, while a rally held in the city centre attracted a similar number of protesters.

Campaigners said they were "standing in solidarity with the Kurdish community".

President Erdogan, who arrived in the UK this week for the Nato leaders' meeting, was invited to the mosque by singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. The musician is patron of the mosque.

The main donor was a consortium of government agencies in Turkey, together with a Turkish private company and the Qatar National Fund.

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Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Turkey's authoritarian president has dominated his country's politics since 2002

There was a heavy police presence in the area from early in the morning, with officers drafted in from as far away as Derbyshire.

Yunus Aslan travelled to Cambridge from London with a group of Erdogan supporters.

"I'm here to greet the greatest leader on earth, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, our president, and we're here to support him while he's in the UK," he said.

A short distance away in the city centre, protesters could be heard shouting "terrorist Erdogan".

One of them said: "I don't think Erdogan should be welcomed anywhere, especially not to open a house of worship."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Pro-Turkish government supporters welcomed the president
Image caption Meanwhile, about 50 protesters gathered in the city centre
Image caption The group moved to the police station where they handed in what they said was a dossier of the president's war crimes
Image caption The group was prevented from getting near the mosque when they moved on from the city centre

The mosque, which first opened to the public in April, was designed to "pay homage to Islam's emphasis on the sanctity of the natural world and the commandment to avoid waste and extravagance".

It boasts zero-carbon on-site emissions, rainwater harvesting and air source heat pumps.

Image copyright Abdallah Abada
Image caption The timber interior is based on a Garden of Paradise "grove of trees"