Batman, Turkey -- Turkey has completed the first phase of restoring a 1,600-year-old monastery in the southeast, according to a local official.
The Mor Kuryakos Monastery located in the Besiri district of the Batman district is planned to be restored in a three-stage process.
Sinan Asci, the district governor of Besiri, told Anadolu Agency that the restoration process began nine months ago.
Asci added that the monastery along with the ancient town of Hasankeyf will be an important tourism attraction.
The historic monastery traces its origin back to fifth-century Syriac Christians and has two floors in an area spanning 2,500 square meters.
Around 1.5 million Turkish liras (nearly $215,000) has been spent on the first phase of the restoration, which covers the monastery entrance, the entire southern facade, a tomb room, and its eastern facade as well as all rooms on the second floor.
The second phase will begin after Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan set for the end of May.
The restoration is being done in coordination with the Batman Governorship, Dicle Development Agency, Special Provincial Administration, and Culture and Tourism Directorate.
Asci said this region has seen people from different faiths living in harmony for centuries.
"The monastery is the faith center of Syriac Christians, and right behind it, we have a mosque, which shows us how tolerance is intertwined," he added.
Locals in the village are happy about the restoration and welcome the revival of this historic building, he said.
In recent years the Turkish government has stepped up efforts to restore and open churches and synagogues, including many places of worship that have had their doors shut for over a century.
Among the restored houses of worship are the Trabzon Sumela Monastery, Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island in the eastern Van province, Armenian Church of St. Giragos in the southeastern Diyarbakir province, Great Synagogue of northwestern Edirne, Stipol Synagogue in Istanbul, and the St. Aho Monastery in Batman.