Turkish Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül has said that “the chains of Hagia Sophia must be broken” in order to allow Muslim prayer. In an interview with the state-run Anadolu Agency, he characteristically said: “Breaking the chains of Hagia Sophia by opening it for (Muslim) prayer is a desire of all of us. It fulfills the wish of Sultan Mehmed.”
According to ethnos.gr, Abdulhamit Gül said that the change in the status of Hagia Sophia is a matter of national sovereignty and does not concern the international community. Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu agrees. Sociologist Ayhan Aktar told Turkish DW that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a museum in 1934 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the secular founder of modern Turkey, was an act aiming at neutralizing the influence of Greek nationalists, who associated the status of the monument with the recovery of Constantinople, as well as the Turkish nationalists, who saw it as a shield against the Crusaders.
The same view is expressed by Coşkun Yılmaz in the newspaper “Sabah”, who states that Hagia Sophia in 1934 became a museum for Ataturk to satisfy the Greeks and to soften the attitude of the West towards Turkey, which never “digested” Constantinople was occupied by the Turks.
UNESCO reacts to Turkey’s plans for Hagia Sophia
It is noted that a few days ago, Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, responding to a letter by the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, addressed to her on the occasion of the reading of a Quran verse in Hagia Sophia during the celebrations of May 29 for the anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople, confirmed to the Greek Minister that the organization is closely monitoring the situation, in the aftermath of the Turkish announcements for the conversion of Hagia Sophia into an Islamic mosque.
The United Nations official recalled that the monument, due to its exceptional world value, has been on the World Heritage List since 1985 as a museum included in the historic zone of Constantinople.
In accordance with the procedures provided for in the World Heritage Convention, prior to any decision on any conversion of such a monument, prior official notification of the State party to the Convention to UNESCO is required.
The competent 21-member intergovernmental committee, which is considering the appropriate solutions, then convenes to maintain the monument’s exceptional global value.
The carpets are ready
At the same time, as ethnos.gr reports, the Turkish media do not fail to send various information to the Press about the preparations for the monument’s conversion into a mosque. In an interview with the Turkish channel T24, Turkish journalist Ahmet Anapali said that the carpets purchased to cover the 7,000 sq.m. of Hagia Sophia are purple, as in the period of Mehmed the Conqueror. He also added that the decision of the CoS will be the expected one, that is, the conversion of the museum into a mosque, and that no surprise is expected.
As Anapali said: “I have said that the carpets of Hagia Sophia are ready. In a private conversation I had with a person who has a position of great power and influence under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, I learned that carpets in purple would be laid in 7,000 square meters in Hagia Sophia, as in the time of Sultan Mehmed.
The money will not be given by the state. They will be given by an individual. It will be approved by the Council of State. Nothing different is expected. Also, the upper part of the ‘mosque’ will be renovated.” The Turkish Council of State is set to rule on the case on July 2, but many Islamist supporters of Erdogan have been calling for years to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.