President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s close friend and high school classmate Hasan Gürsoy was granted a restoration tender of Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia by the General Directorate of Foundations, the daily Birgün reported on Jan. 28.
Güryapı Restoration Contracting Company’s winning bid worth 218.5 million liras (7.2 million dollars) was announced on Jan. 26. The company owned by Gürsoy needs to complete the project by Sept. 25, 2025.
Previously, Gürsoy’s companies renovated the Huber Mansion, Süleymaniye Mosque, Galatasaray University, Archeology Museum, Topkapı Palace, and a lodge linked to a foundation of President Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan.
Additionally, Gürsoy undertook construction projects worth millions of liras, such as President Erdoğan's summer house in the eastern province of Van, the Ahlat Mansion, and Turkey’s largest mosque, the Çamlıca Mosque.
It is not the first time that Hagia Sophia’s renovation tenders have been under scrutiny for alleged cronyism. In 2022, a business partnership of three companies with close ties to President Erdoğan was awarded millions of liras to renovate the Hagia Sophia.
In recent weeks, the Hagia Sophia has been embroiled in controversy over the installation of an industrial shutter door at the entrance, dividing worshipers from tourists, who now must pay a 25 euro entrance fee.
The Hagia Sophia was the world’s largest cathedral for 900 years until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. After which it served as a mosque for nearly 500 years. In 1934, a cabinet decree turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum.
Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) it was converted into a mosque again in 2020, a long-standing wish of political Islamist groups.
(English version by Wouter Massink)