UNESCO warns Turkey against Hagia Sophia mosque conversion

Elias Hubbard
July 11, 2020

Built in 537 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia once served as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch but was converted into a mosque after Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453. In 1985, UNESCO designated the site - as a component of the Historic Areas of Istanbul - a World Heritage site.

"This is a world legacy, a magnificent work", Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul and a member of Turkey's largest opposition party, said in an interview last month.

Religious and political leaders all ova di world bin condemn tok to convert di cathedral back to mosque.

With support from his conservative muslim base, the Turkish president has long sought this outcome while struggling to maintain popularity with voters during 18 years in office.

UNESCO warned that the move risked harming the universal nature of Hagia Sophia as a place open to all of civilisation, a key aspect of its World Heritage status.

A Bangladeshi man, who has been living in Turkey for three years, said he was "so excited and praying that Hagia Sophia would become a mosque again".

To allow Hagia Sophia to be returned to the status of a mosque would be yet another example of the European Union wilfully capitulating to the circumstances around it and a further demonstrative forfeiture of its role as the champion of global cultural heritage. It called on Turkey to "engage in dialogue" before taking any steps that might impact its universal value.

The matter of Hagia Sophia's status came up when Turkey marked the 567th anniversary of the conquest on May 29 by reading passages from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in the Hagia Sophia.

Analysts believe that Erdogan - a populist, polarizing leader who in almost two decades in office has frequently blamed Turkey's secular elites for the country's problems - is using the Hagia Sophia debate to consolidate his conservative base and to distract attention from Turkey's substantial economic woes.

"The court lifted the chain of bans on Hagia Sophia", he wrote. The cultural site's social media channels have now been taken down.

What has the reaction been?

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Christodoulides said Turkey's "escalating, flagrant violation of its global obligations is manifested in its decision to alter the designation of Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage Site that is a universal symbol of the Orthodox faith".

The organisation had urged Turkey not to change its status without discussion.

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said it was an "open provocation to the civilised world".

E no tey afta court rule say to convert am to museum dey illegal na im dem do di first call to prayer wey all di main news channels for Turkey bin cover live.

The ruling was made by the Council of State, Turkey's top administrative court.

According to the court's full ruling, Hagia Sophia was owned by a foundation established by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror and was presented to the community as a mosque.

For 1,500-years, Hagia Sophia, once the greatest religious building in the Christian world, has held a deep significance for the people of what is now known as Istanbul (formerly Constantinople).

E say dis decision fit lead to more division.

An official from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party, which has Islamist roots, had said the decision "in favour of an annulment" was expected on Friday. "We have to admit that the concern of millions of Christians was not heard".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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