Hagia Sophia can be reverted to a mosque: Erdoğan
It is within the bounds of possibility to change the legal status of the iconic Hagia Sophia Museum, a landmark of Istanbul and a UNESCO World Heritage site, to a mosque as it was before 1935, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 24.
“It is not an abnormal proposal. It is not something impossible, it could be done easily. We could even name it as the Hagia Sophia Mosque instead of a museum so that everybody can visit it without charge,” Erdoğan said during a live interview on a private broadcaster when asked whether the museum could be free of charge for Turkish citizens.
“Its status of museum could be stripped off. Actually that status was given by a step taken with the mentality of the [Republican People’s Party] CHP. We can take that step taken by the CHP mentality back,” he added, referring to the regulation adopted by the main opposition party in 1935.
Erdoğan also pointed to other historical mosques in Istanbul, such as the Blue (Sultanahmet) Mosque, which are open to all visitors and worshippers without charge.
Built in the 6th century by the East Roman Empire, Hagia Sophia served as the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church for 916 years and was converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453.
Erdoğan applauds stance of New Zealand
Erdoğan has also applauded the humane stance of the people of New Zealand following last week’s twin mosque attacks in Christchurch city during his speech.
“The people of New Zealand gave a lesson of humanity to those who did not get their share of humanity,” Erdoğan said.
At least 50 Muslims were killed and as many injured on March 15 when a terrorist -- identified as Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, 28 -- entered the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch and shot worshippers in cold blood, including four children younger than 18.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Mosques to pay tribute to the victims as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for unity and solidarity with the Muslim community.
During the interview, Erdoğan praised the mass gatherings at the scene of attacks and people’s act of respect to the victims.
Erdoğan went on to say that the people of New Zealand could never be linked to terrorism.
“They organized memorial services, they gathered at the scene of the incident and left flowers to pay tribute to the victims. These are acts of humanity. We can’t ignore these acts of humanity,” he added.
The Turkish leader expressed his “heartfelt” thanks to the people of New Zealand once again for their strong stance against terrorism and solidarity with the victims.
He reiterated that attacks in Christchurch “was not an individual act of terrorism but an organized act of terrorism.”
Erdogan praised Ardern for her “applaudable statements” and strong stance following the attacks.