Turkish authorities have begun conducting inspections in Hagia Sophia as part of preparations so that the monument can be used for Muslim prayer, as reported by ANA-MPA, a day after the Turkish Council of State decided to pave the way for its conversion from a museum to a mosque.
Yesterday, the Turkish president announced that Hagia Sophia would open as a mosque for Muslim worship on July 24, for the first time since 1934, when by decree of the government of Kemal Ataturk the Byzantine monument was converted into a museum.
The building has been closed to visitors, as reported by the Turkish news agency Anadolu, with teams from the Ministry of Tourism inspecting the dome and four minarets as part of preparations.
Hagia Sophia was transferred under the supervision of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, whose president, Ali Erbaş, said his office had already begun preparations so everything to be in place by July 24.
At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected international reaction and condemnation over the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, arguing that this had to do with his country’s “sovereign rights”.
“Those who do not react to Islamophobia in their countries […] now are attacking Turkey’s will to exercise its sovereign rights,” said Erdogan during a ceremony by videoconference.
“We made this decision, not in relation to what others say, but in relation to our rights, as we did in Syria, Libya and elsewhere,” he added.