ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The president of Turkey on Friday formally converted Istanbul’s sixth-century Hagia Sophia back again into a mosque and declared it open for Muslim worship, hrs right after a substantial courtroom annulled a 1934 choice that experienced built the spiritual landmark a museum.
The choice sparked deep dismay amid Orthodox Christians. At first a cathedral, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque following Istanbul’s conquest by the Ottoman Empire but had been a museum for the final 86 several years, drawing tens of millions of tourists yearly.
There was jubilation exterior the terracotta-hued structure with its cascading domes and 4 minarets. Dozens of men and women awaiting the court’s ruling chanted “Allah is fantastic!” when the news broke. A significant crowd later on prayed exterior it.
TURKEY Concerns PRESIDENTIAL DECREE TO Convert HAGIA SOPHIA Again INTO MOSQUE
In the money of Ankara, legislators stood and applauded as the final decision was read through in Parliament.
Turkey’s substantial administrative court docket threw its excess weight at the rear of a petition introduced by a religious team and annulled the 1934 Cabinet final decision that turned the web page into a museum. Inside of hours, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree handing in excess of Hagia Sophia to Turkey’s Spiritual Affairs Presidency.
In a televised address to the country, Erdogan claimed the initial prayers inside Hagia Sofia would be held on July 24, and he urged regard for the final decision.
“I underline that we will open Hagia Sophia to worship as a mosque by preserving its character of humanity’s popular cultural heritage,” he stated, including: “It is Turkey’s sovereign correct to make your mind up for which purpose Hagia Sofia will be utilized.”
He rejected the plan that the choice finishes Hagia Sophia’s standing as a composition that delivers faiths with each other.
“Like all of our other mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be open up to all, locals or foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” Erdogan claimed.
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Erdogan had spoken in favor of turning the hugely symbolic UNESCO Earth Heritage site back into a mosque regardless of common worldwide criticism, which include from U.S. and Orthodox Christian leaders, who experienced urged Turkey to keep its position as a museum symbolizing solidarity amid faiths and cultures.
The choice threatens to deepen tensions with neighboring Greece, whose tradition minister, Lina Mendoni, denounced the move as “an open obstacle to the entire civilized earth that acknowledges the distinctive value and universality of the monument.”
In Greece’s 2nd-major city, Thessaloniki, protesters gathered exterior a church that is modeled on Hagia Sophia and bears the same name. They chanted, “We’ll mild candles in Hagia Sophia!” and held Greek flags and Byzantine banners.
Cyprus “strongly condemns Turkey’s steps on Hagia Sophia in its effort and hard work to distract domestic view and phone calls on Turkey to regard its worldwide obligations,” tweeted Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the international affairs committee in the Russian upper home of parliament, known as the motion “a blunder.”
“Turning it into a mosque will not do just about anything for the Muslim earth. It does not provide nations alongside one another, but on the opposite provides them into collision,” he said.
The debate hits at the heart of Turkey’s religious-secular divide. Nationalist and conservative groups in Turkey have very long yearned to maintain prayers at Hagia Sophia, which they regard as element of the Muslim Ottoman legacy. Other people believe it must continue to be a museum, as a image of Christian and Muslim solidarity.
“It was a construction that brought alongside one another equally Byzantine and Ottoman histories,” stated Zeynep Kizildag, a 27-yr-outdated social employee, who did not aid the conversion. “The selection to flip it into a mosque is like erasing 1,000 many years of background, in my belief.”
Garo Paylan, an ethnic Armenian member of Turkey’s Parliament tweeted that it was “a sad day for Christians (and) for all who feel in a pluralist Turkey.”
“The selection to transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque will make daily life additional challenging for Christians listed here and for Muslims in Europe,” he wrote. “Hagia Sophia was a symbol of our loaded historical past. Its dome was huge plenty of for all.”
The team that brought the scenario to courtroom had contested the legality of the 1934 conclusion by the fashionable Turkish republic’s secular government ministers, arguing the making was the personal home of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, who conquered Istanbul in 1453.
“I was not shocked at all that the court weighed to sanction Erdogan’s moves simply because these times Erdogan will get from Turkish courts what Erdogan would like,” claimed Soner Cagaptay, of the Washington Institute.
“Erdogan desires to use Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque to rally his suitable-wing base,” stated Cagaptay, the creator of “Erdogan’s Empire.” “But I really don’t assume this approach will work. I assume that quick of financial growth, almost nothing will restore Erdogan’s acceptance.”
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In Paris, the United Nations cultural system, UNESCO, explained it deeply regretted the decision.
“Its standing as a museum displays the universal character of its heritage, and tends to make it a highly effective symbol for dialogue,” said Director-Typical Audrey Azoulay.
The Istanbul-centered Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, regarded the religious leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, warned final thirty day period that the building’s conversion into a mosque “will change hundreds of thousands of Christians across the world in opposition to Islam.”
Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, referred to as for “prudence” and the preservation of the “current neutral status” for the Hagia Sophia, which he said was a single of Christianity’s “devoutly honored symbols.”
U.S. Point out Secretary Mike Pompeo reported very last thirty day period the landmark really should continue being a museum to serve as bridge among faiths and cultures. His feedback sparked a rebuke from Turkey’s Overseas Ministry, which claimed Hagia Sophia was a domestic issue of Turkish nationwide sovereignty.
Erdogan, a devout Muslim, has regularly made use of the Hagia Sophia concern to drum up assist for his Islamic-rooted social gathering.
Some Islamic prayers have been held in the museum in current several years. In a main symbolic go, Erdogan recited the opening verse of the Quran there in 2018.
Crafted beneath Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, wherever emperors have been topped amid ornate marble and mosaic decorations.
The minarets were being extra later and the setting up was turned into an imperial mosque pursuing the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople — the town that is now termed Istanbul.
The building opened its doorways as a museum in 1935, a yr immediately after the Council of Ministers’ decision.
Mosaics depicting Jesus, Mary and Christian saints that were being plastered about in line with Islamic procedures were uncovered through arduous restoration function for the museum. Hagia Sophia was the most well-liked museum in Turkey last year, drawing additional than 3.7 million site visitors.
Associated Push writers Zeynep Bilginsoy and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul, Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed.