Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan introduced Friday the transformation of the previous Hagia Sophia right into a mosque, regardless of warnings overseas, after a court docket revoked the museum standing of this excessive place of tourism in Istanbul.
The Council of State, the very best administrative court docket in Turkey, acceded to the request of a number of associations by revoking a authorities determination relationship from 1934 granting Hagia Sophia the standing of museum.
3.eight million guests in 2019
Shortly after this determination, Erdogan introduced that the previous Byzantine Basilica in former Constantinople could be open for Muslim prayers as a mosque on Friday July 24.
"Like all different mosques, the doorways of Hagia Sophia would stay open to everybody, Turks and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims," he added in a speech.
A significant architectural work constructed within the sixth century by the Byzantines who topped their emperors there, Hagia Sophia is a World Heritage Web site by UNESCO, and one of many important vacationer points of interest of Istanbul with some 3.eight million guests in 2019.
Transformed right into a mosque after the seize of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, it was reworked right into a museum in 1934 by the chief of the younger Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal, anxious to "supply it to humanity".
The State Council annulled this determination Friday, explaining in its recitals that in response to the acts of property within the title of the Mehmet Fatih Basis, named after the Ottoman sultan who conquered Constantinople, Hagia Sophia was listed as a mosque and that this qualification couldn’t be modified.
"The chains have been damaged"
A number of nations, notably Russia and Greece, which carefully comply with the destiny of Byzantine heritage in Turkey, in addition to america and France, have specifically warned Ankara in opposition to the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a spot of Muslim worship , a measure for which Mr. Erdogan, from an Islamo-conservative social gathering, has campaigned for years.
Reactions weren’t lengthy in coming: Athens condemned the choice "with the best firmness", Washington stated it was "disillusioned" and Paris "deplored" it. Greece, by means of the voice of its Minister of Tradition Lina Mendoni, thought-about that it was a "provocation in the direction of the civilized world": "The nationalism proven by President Erdogan takes his nation again six centuries ".
Mr. Erdogan, a nostalgic for the Ottoman Empire who’s at the moment looking for to rally the conservative citizens in opposition to the background of the financial disaster as a result of pandemic of latest coronavirus and a troublesome regional context, has repeatedly stated he’s favorable to a retrain of Hagia Sophia in a mosque.
Final yr, he known as his transformation right into a museum "a really large mistake".
"Hagia Sophia might be essentially the most seen image of Turkey's Ottoman previous and Erdogan is instrumental in galvanizing its base and measuring its rivals at dwelling and overseas", dissects Anthony Skinner, from the consulting agency Verisk Maplecroft .
"Provocation in the direction of the civilized world".
For the reason that arrival of Mr. Erdogan in energy in 2003, actions associated to Islam have multiplied inside Hagia Sophia, with notably classes of studying the Koran or collective prayers on the sq. in entrance of the monument.
"I’m very moved. The truth that Hagia Sophia loses its museum standing and turns into a mosque overwhelms all Muslims," Mucayit Celik, a Stambouliote met in entrance of the monument, advised AFP.
"It’s a determination that I’ve been ready for years. It’s a disgrace that it has not occurred earlier than, that’s the reason I’m very glad," added Umut Cagri, one other resident of Istanbul. .
A number of hundred folks gathered in entrance of the previous basilica, the place a bolstered police power was deployed, waving Turkish flags and chanting "the chains have been damaged" to rejoice the choice of the Council of State.
Masks on the face as a result of coronavirus, they carried out the collective night prayer.
Even when a reconversion of Hagia Sophia right into a mosque is not going to forestall vacationers of all beliefs from going there – a lot of them go to the close by Blue Mosque day-after-day – altering the standing of such an emblematic place within the historical past of Christianity arouses tensions.
The Russian Orthodox Church thus regretted that the "concern" of "hundreds of thousands of Christians" had not been heard by the Turkish court docket.
Greece, by means of the Minister of Tradition Lina Mendoni, described the Turkish court docket's determination as "a provocation to the civilized world".
Unesco director Audrey Azoulay stated in an announcement that the group "deeply regrets" the choice of the Turkish authorities, "taken with out prior dialogue". As a basic ingredient in its historical past, speaks of provocation.