Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia as a mosque on Friday, July 10 following a court order that ruled the iconic building’s conversion to a museum as illegal.
According to international media reports, Erdogan announced Hagia Sophia open for prayer just hours after a Turkish court restored the mosque status of the 6th-century monument by overturning modern Turkey’s founding statesman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's cabinet decree of 1943.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hagia Sophia is revered by people of Islamic as well as Christian faith across the world and recognised as a symbol of peaceful religious coexistence in the modern world.
Hence, its change of status has drawn global concerns. The ancient monument was central to Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and is one of the most famous landmarks of Istanbul.
Turkish Council of State, the country's top administrative court, in it's ruling noted that Hagia Sophia's settlement deed foregrounded it as a mosque and therefore, it's status as a museum was deemed illegal. Erdogan has been criticised for brushing aside global concerns against the restoration of Hagia Sophia's mosque status.
According to reports, Greek authorities have described the move as an “open provocation” to the civilised world while church leaders have criticised the Turkish President for revoking the monument's secular status.
The Russian Orthodox Church is reported to have expressed concerns over the decision stating that it could lead to even greater divisions. UNESCO is also reported to have snubbed the move.
In the order signed by Erdogan, the management of Hagia Sophia was handed over the Religious Affairs Directorate and stated the place as 'open it for worship', as per reports. Later in the day, Erdogan announced that Hagia Sophia would open its doors for Friday prayers on July 24.