Turkey's UNESCO heritage sites inadequate: Official​

By Fatih Hafız Mehmet and Faruk Zorlu

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey is considered the cradle of civilization but has fewer UNESCO World Heritage sites than other nations.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Professor Ocal Oguz, president of the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO, said Turkey has 18 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

"However, the league in which we are, the place in which we exist is not this. Why? Because we are a crossroads country. North, South, East and West every civilization meets each other in our geography," Oguz said.

"Our geography is a geography which founded civilizations.”

Oguz said the number of sites in countries on the UNESCO list like the U.S., China, France, Spain, Italy and Germany has reached 30 or 40.

In this sense, it could be said that the number of Turkey's sites on the list is inadequate, Oguz said.

He said the number of Turkey's UNESCO heritage sites had risen rapidly in recent years, with half of those on the list accepted in the last eight years.

Oguz said that in the past, it was possible to present three, four or five sites a year, but UNESCO has now introduced quotas and each country can submit only one site per year for the heritage list.

He said Turkey has 77 sites on the tentative list, the most for any country.

But because of the quota, it will take 77 years for Turkey to submit all of the sites on this list, even if no other site is added on the tentative list, Oguz added.

– Cultural heritage

Turkey is fifth on the list of countries in terms of the number of intangible cultural heritage elements on UNESCO’s list, Oguz said.

UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list has 17 Turkish traditions.

Intangible cultural heritage is a type of cultural heritage which includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festivals, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts, according to UNESCO’s official website.

Intangible cultural heritage includes two lists: one is a representative list and the other is an urgent safeguarding list, Oguz said.

In 2017, Turkey’s whistled language was added to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

Also, the Spring Celebration ‘Hidrellez,’ a joint project between Turkey and Macedonia, was included in 2017 on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Oguz added.

The Kizilirmak Delta Wetland and Bird Sanctuary will be evaluated in 2019 and, if appropriate, will be included among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites as Turkey’s first natural heritage site on the list, he noted.

Located in the Black Sea province of Samsun, the Kizilirmak Delta is a large wetland complex that contains almost all members of wetland ecosystems, according to UNESCO’s website.

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