The United Nations remembered Hagia Sophia and published an article on the organization’s official website entitled “Keep Turkey’s Hagia Sophia ‘a space for meeting of cultures’.” The UN has not only accepted the new status but is advising Turkey on how to reduce reactions. The experts who dealt with the subject simply refer to it with indifference and the logic of equal distances!
The article reports that the historic Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which was converted into a mosque earlier this month by the Turkish government, should be preserved as an intercultural site “reflecting the diversity and complexity of Turkey and its history”.
“It would be a historic mistake in this difficult global moment to take action which divide religious and cultural groups in Turkey and beyond, rather than unite them,” said Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur for cultural rights, while Ahmed Shah, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, stated, “The dome of the Hagia Sophia should be big enough to include everyone’.”
Experts have expressed concern that the Turkish government’s decision on July 10 to change the status of the building and the “hasty implementation of this decision” may violate Turkey’s obligations under the rules derived from the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention. “We share UNESCO’s concern that the transformation of a site of outstanding universal value requires prior notice and consultation with all stakeholders to ensure that the human rights of all are respected. The Hagia Sophia is Turkey’s most visited attraction, and is a monument of global importance.”
The experts also stressed the importance of appropriate arrangements for the care of the site, following conflicting reports on the measures implemented. “We urge the Government of Turkey to clarify the arrangements, and ensure that cultural heritage experts continue to be responsible for the conservation of this monument. International and technical standards must be fully respected,” the experts added.
“We are gravely concerned about the rights of everyone to access and enjoy cultural heritage, about inter-faith co-existence and secular spaces, and about the equality and safety of religious minorities, including Christians,” the experts said.
“We encourage the Turkish Government to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders. This is essential to guarantee that the Hagia Sophia continues to be a space for the enjoyment of cultural rights by all, reflecting its diverse Christian, Muslim and secular heritages, and that it continues to be a symbol which brings all people in Turkey together,” said the experts.