Gov’t may look to change Hagia Sophia’s status
The Turkish government may start works to change the current status of Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), a landmark mosque-turned-museum in Istanbul, daily Hürriyet reported on June 5.
The matter of Hagia Sophia’s status came up when Turkey marked the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of the former Byzantine capital by reading passages from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in the Hagia Sophia.
Greece objected to the celebratory event while Ankara shot back, accusing Athens of making “futile and ineffective statements.”
The issue was also brought into question on June 3 during the Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“Prayers can be performed and Al-Fatiha surah can be recited in the Hagia Sophia. Only our great nation can decide this,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the MYK meeting, according to anonymous sources quoted by daily Hürriyet.
According to the sources, the president reminded that the Hagia Sophia is regarded as the symbol of Istanbul’s conquest, and that it was given the museum status in 1934 by a decision of the then-cabinet.
“Start works for Hagia Sophia, we will assess and talk about it,” Erdoğan told the AKP members at the meeting.
“Hagia Sophia can still be visited by tourists, just like Sultanahmet. Our nation should make this decision,” he said.
Erdoğan also urged the AKP members to be “very sensitive” about this and not to rush the works regarding the Hagia Sophia.
The sources also said that the praise from other parties for reciting prayers in Hagia Sophia also came up during the MYK meeting.