American academic Thomas Whittemore was approved by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to restore the Hagia Sophia's mosaics in 1931. Although the space opened as a museum in three years, the restoration went on for another 15.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will not impact Turkish-Russian relations. Petrov said that Moscow regards this as an "internal affair" of Turkey.
Ankara wants to play the “Leader of the Muslim world card” — but there is more to Hagia Sophia’s conversion than just that. Just like the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “West Bank annexation” policy, Ankara banks on the strategy of “creating an international problem to overshadow debating domestic grievances and making national politics dependent on the existing government through isolation” strategy.
In 2008, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to “save Sulukule from its state of monstrosity” invoking the same word for monstrosity (ucube) he later used to describe the Statue of Humanity, a sculpture built in the eastern province of Kars to symbolize friendship between Turkey and Armenia. Like Sulukule, the statue was torn down.
Turkey’s two largest education unions said that the use of schoolyards for mass Friday prayers of Muslims was “unconstitutional” as schools are public venues, and should be equally distanced from all faiths. The Education Ministry also assigned teachers to assist in the prayer ceremony by handing out hand sanitizer and ensuring social distancing.
Turkey’s top religious authority mandates masks and social distancing for worshippers as mosques reopen
Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) mandated facemasks and social distancing inside mosques, which will reopen after months of closure on May 29. The Diyanet also urged congregations to conduct mass prayers outside and visitors to perform ablutions at home, rather than at public sinks in mosques.
The imam too is apologetically in a hurry. I try to appear comforting in reiterating over and over again that everything is in order according to Islam. I even attempt to reassure him by patting his shoulder but my hand remains hanging in the air as the wide-eyed imam is aghast of this potential physical contact.