Turkish ultranationalist group recites call to prayer, prays inside Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia
A group of people from the Alperen Hearths, an ultranationalist youth organization linked to the right-wing nationalist Great Union Party (BBP), on Dec. 11 recited the ezan (Muslim call to prayer) and performed prayers inside Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum, Doğan News Agency has reported.
The incident happened as one person among the group first began to recite the ezan while tourists were visiting the museum.
Security personnel inside the museum immediately intervened while other members of the group began to perform prayers.
The group performed the afternoon prayers inside and their act was filmed by bystanders.
Police later took the group to a police station but they were released after testifying to the police.
The Hagia Sophia Museum was first dedicated as an Orthodox patriarchal basilica in 360. Until 1453 it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople. Following the city’s conquest by the Ottoman Empire, the building turned into a mosque in 1453 and remained so until 1931, when it was closed to the public for four years. It was reopened by the authorities of Turkey’s young Republic as a museum in 1935.
Earlier this week, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Şamil Tayyar had proposed the reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, in retaliation against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“If you say so, let Hagia Sophia be opened to prayers. We should start holding Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia,” Tayyar tweeted on Dec. 6.