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Turkey: Christian Monastery Fights for Muslim Tenants

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Old script inside the Aya Yorgi Garibi hints to the building's origin as a Greek monastery.

In 1972, Yorgo Güller, a Greek Christian from Istanbul, visited leafy Burgazada, one of the Princes’ Islands just off the city’s coast, looking for love. Almost forty years later, he is still there tending to a neglected, 18th-century Greek monastery.

Summer homes still line the vegetable garden of Aya Yorgi Garibi, which some believe translates as “Saint George the Destitute.” But the only year-round tenants are Güller, his Muslim wife, and 48 families of Alevi Shi’a Muslims, Turkey’s largest religious minority.

The tolerance at Yorgi Garibi recalls the days of cosmopolitan Constantinople, when Greeks numbered in the hundreds of thousands. But a land dispute dating to the expulsions of Greeks in the 20th century threatens that easiness. In an ironic twist, the Turkish government is now telling the low-income Muslim families to leave.

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Jonathan Lewis is a freelance photojournalist based in Istanbul. Constanze Letsch is a freelance writer also based in Istanbul.

Turkey: Christian Monastery Fights for Muslim Tenants

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