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 immediately after a substantial court annulled a 1934 decision that experienced designed the religious landmark a museum.
The conclusion sparked deep dismay among Orthodox Christians. Originally a cathedral, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque soon after Istanbul’s conquest by the Ottoman Empire but had been a museum for the final 86 many years, drawing thousands and thousands of tourists on a yearly basis.
There was jubilation exterior the terracotta-hued composition with its cascading domes and four minarets. Dozens of individuals awaiting the court’s ruling chanted “Allah is good!” when the news broke. A large group later prayed outdoors it.
In the capital of Ankara, legislators stood and applauded as the final decision was go through in Parliament.
Turkey’s superior administrative court docket threw its pounds behind a petition brought by a spiritual group and annulled the 1934 Cupboard choice that turned the web page into a museum. Within just several hours, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree handing around Hagia Sophia to Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency.
In a televised handle to the nation, Erdogan claimed the very first prayers within Hagia Sofia would be held on July 24, and he urged respect for the final decision.
“I underline that we will open Hagia Sophia to worship as a mosque by preserving its character of humanity’s widespread cultural heritage,” he claimed, adding: “It is Turkey’s sovereign correct to choose for which purpose Hagia Sofia will be used.”
He rejected the thought that the choice ends Hagia Sophia’s position as a structure that delivers faiths alongside one another.
“Like all of our other mosques, the doorways of Hagia Sophia will be open to all, locals or foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” Erdogan explained.
Erdogan experienced spoken in favor of turning the massively symbolic UNESCO Globe Heritage web page back again into a mosque despite popular intercontinental criticism, like from U.S. and Orthodox Christian leaders, who had urged Turkey to maintain its standing as a museum symbolizing solidarity among the faiths and cultures.
The final decision threatens to deepen tensions with neighboring Greece, whose lifestyle minister, Lina Mendoni, denounced the shift as “an open problem to the full civilized environment that recognizes the exclusive worth and universality of the monument.”
In Greece’s next-biggest metropolis, Thessaloniki, protesters collected exterior a church that is modeled on Hagia Sophia and bears the exact same name. They chanted, “We’ll light candles in Hagia Sophia!” and held Greek flags and Byzantine banners.
Cyprus “strongly condemns Turkey’s actions on Hagia Sophia in its effort to distract domestic opinion and calls on Turkey to respect its worldwide obligations,” tweeted Overseas Minister Nikos Christodoulides.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the international affairs committee in the Russian higher dwelling of parliament, termed the motion “a error.”
“Turning it into a mosque will not do something for the Muslim environment. It does not deliver nations jointly, but on the opposite brings them into collision,” he reported.
The discussion hits at the heart of Turkey’s religious-secular divide. Nationalist and conservative teams in Turkey have long yearned to hold prayers at Hagia Sophia, which they regard as aspect of the Muslim Ottoman legacy. Other people believe it should really stay a museum, as a symbol of Christian and Muslim solidarity.
“It was a composition that brought with each other each Byzantine and Ottoman histories,” claimed Zeynep Kizildag, a 27-year-outdated social worker, who did not assistance the conversion. “The final decision to flip it into a mosque is like erasing 1,000 yrs of record, in my belief.”
Garo Paylan, an ethnic Armenian member of Turkey’s Parliament tweeted that it was “a sad working day for Christians (and) for all who imagine in a pluralist Turkey.”
“The decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque will make lifestyle more difficult for Christians here and for Muslims in Europe,” he wrote. “Hagia Sophia was a symbol of our prosperous heritage. Its dome was large ample for all.”
The group that brought the situation to court experienced contested the legality of the 1934 choice by the modern Turkish republic’s secular government ministers, arguing the setting up was the personalized property of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, who conquered Istanbul in 1453.
“I was not amazed at all that the court weighed to sanction Erdogan’s moves simply because these days Erdogan gets from Turkish courts what Erdogan wants,” claimed Soner Cagaptay, of the Washington Institute.
“Erdogan wishes to use Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque to rally his right-wing foundation,” said Cagaptay, the writer of “Erdogan’s Empire.” “But I never consider this approach will work. I think that limited of economic growth, almost nothing will restore Erdogan’s attractiveness.”
In Paris, the United Nations cultural physique, UNESCO, explained it deeply regretted the selection.
“Its status as a museum reflects the common mother nature of its heritage, and can make it a impressive image for dialogue,” reported Director-Normal Audrey Azoulay.
The Istanbul-primarily based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, viewed as the spiritual chief of the world’s Orthodox Christians, warned past month that the building’s conversion into a mosque “will change thousands and thousands of Christians across the earth against Islam.”
Patriarch Kirill, the chief of the Russian Orthodox Church, referred to as for “prudence” and the preservation of the “current neutral status” for the Hagia Sophia, which he reported was one of Christianity’s “devoutly venerated symbols.”
U.S. Point out Secretary Mike Pompeo mentioned last month the landmark need to remain a museum to provide as bridge among faiths and cultures. His opinions sparked a rebuke from Turkey’s International Ministry, which stated Hagia Sophia was a domestic challenge of Turkish countrywide sovereignty.
Erdogan, a devout Muslim, has often employed the Hagia Sophia concern to drum up aid for his Islamic-rooted social gathering.
Some Islamic prayers have been held in the museum in modern years. In a main symbolic go, Erdogan recited the opening verse of the Quran there in 2018.
Built under Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was the primary seat of the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, where by emperors had been crowned amid ornate marble and mosaic decorations.
The minarets had been added afterwards and the creating was turned into an imperial mosque adhering to the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople — the city that is now known as Istanbul.
The building opened its doorways as a museum in 1935, a 12 months following the Council of Ministers’ selection.
Mosaics depicting Jesus, Mary and Christian saints that had been plastered more than in line with Islamic rules ended up uncovered via arduous restoration do the job for the museum. Hagia Sophia was the most common museum in Turkey previous calendar year, drawing extra than 3.7 million visitors.
Related Push writers Zeynep Bilginsoy and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul, Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed.