Duvar EnglishTurkish gov't prepares video in English to mark thwarting of July 2016 coup attempt
The conversion of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque is the continuation of our revival during the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said.
Altun on July 14 responded to criticism on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Hagia Sophia decision, saying, "We all know that the world's reaction is political."
Erdoğan declared Hagia Sophia a mosque on July 10 with the first Muslim prayers to begin in two weeks, after a top court ruled the ancient building's conversion to a museum by modern Turkey's founding statesman was illegal.
"This longing ended with the will of our president. The decision is the continuation of our July 15 revival," Altun told daily Hürriyet.EU calls on Turkey to 'urgently reconsider' decision on Hagia Sophia
The July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt is widely believed to have been orchestrated by followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen - an ally-turned-foe of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The coup was thwarted largely when people poured to the streets to counter putschist soldiers.
During the interview, Altun said that Erdoğan explained all the issues on Hagia Sophia "clearly."
"Those who adopted Islamophobia as a policy can't have anything to say to our country, where every religion and faith exist freely," he said.
"The doors of Hagia Sophia will continue to be open for everyone. The conversion of it into a mosque is a victory in terms of religious freedoms," Altun added.