Duvar English / Reuters
The United States on July 1 urged the Turkish government to continue to maintain the status of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul as a museum, pushing back on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's proposal to restore the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.Conversion of Hagia Sophia into mosque risks turning Christians against Muslims, warns Bartholomew
In a statement on the issue, Pompeo first praised the Turkish government for running the building "in an outstanding manner" as a museum but cautioned that a change in its status would diminish its legacy.
"We urge the Government of Turkey to continue to maintain the Hagia Sophia as a museum, as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey, and to ensure it remains accessible to all," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Erdoğan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a building at the heart of both Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and today one of Turkey’s most visited monuments.
Turkey’s Council of State, the highest administrative court in the country, is expected to decide on July 2 if the iconic structure can be converted into a place of Muslim worship.
Built in the 6th century by Byzantine emperor Justinian as a church, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the conquering of Constantinople in 1453. It was turned into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk following the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.Turkish gov't 'planning to open Hagia Sophia to prayers on July 15' if Council of State gives green light
The issue of the Hagia Sophia being reconverted into a mosque has recently again emerged on the agenda, and it is often instrumentalized as a political issue by Islamist pundits and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians.
Habertürk reported on June 16 that the AKP is planning to open Istanbul’s famous site to prayers on July 15, if the Council of State rules in favor of this on July 2.
Islamist groups have campaigned for years for Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque and Erdoğan backed their call ahead of local elections last year.
Many Turks argue that mosque status would better reflect the identity of Turkey as an overwhelmingly Muslim country, and recent polls show that most Turks support a change.