Erdogan Signs Order Allowing Hagia Sophia to Be Used as a Mosque

13 Juillet, 2020, 12:30 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya in Istanbul

The decision is in line with the Turkish president's calls to turn the hugely symbolic world heritage site into a mosque despite widespread global criticism, including from the USA and Orthodox Christian leaders.

"This is a choice which offends all those who also recognize the monument as a world heritage site", Mitsotakis said in a written statement according to the Jerusalem Post. "Throughout its history, it has been bearing diverse religious, cultural and political significance", Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anna Naghdalyan said in a statement.

A 32-year-old man named Sahib held his prayer mat and said he made the trip to the Hagia Sophia in hopes of performing Friday midday Muslim prayers there.

It said that any modification requires prior notification to UNESCO and possibly examination by its World Heritage Committee, which adds - and sometimes removes - sites from the coveted list of UNESCO World Heritage.

Outside Turkey, the prospect of change has raised alarm.

Bartholomew, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and leader of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, decried the attempt to turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque in a sermon last week.

Erdogan urged everyone to respect Turkey's decision and said the issue of what purposes Hagia Sophia would serve "concerns Turkey's sovereign rights".

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In the past, he has repeatedly called for the stunning building to be renamed as a mosque and in 2018, he recited a verse from the Koran at Hagia Sophia.

The presidential decree came after the Turkish court annulled the historical site's museum status, which was put in place in 1934 by President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

"It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally", the Council of State, Turkey's highest administrative court, said in its ruling. "Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue".

Earlier in the day, Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül expressed their expectations of opening the Hagia Sophia to worship for the Muslims in separate tweets. He said, "Like all our mosques, its doors will be open to everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim".

By reversing one of Ataturk's most symbolic steps, which underlined the former leader's commitment to a secular republic, Erdogan has capped his own project to restore Islam in public life, said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

For Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, "the nationalism displayed by Erdogan. takes his country back six centuries".

The Turkish president said Hagia Sophia would continue to embrace everyone with its new status as a mosque in a much more honest way. "Either today or tomorrow, the Hagia Sophia will be opened!"

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