The reopening of Hagia Sophia for worship is fundamentally an issue of sovereignty and independence, a Turkish opposition leader said on Tuesday.
“Hagia Sophia is symbol of conquest. In our opinion, the reopening of Hagia Sophia, far from being just a necessity and laying claim to a relic of conquest, is an issue of sovereignty and independence,” Mustafa Destici, leader of the Grand Unity Party (BBP), told reporters in parliament.
Hagia Sophia should be reopened for worship “abiding by the will of [Sultan Mehmet] the conqueror,” whose armies took the city from the Byzantines 567 years ago.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday slammed Greece for objecting to the reopening of Haiga Sophia for worship.
“They’re saying, ‘Don’t turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque.’ Do you rule Turkey, or do we rule Turkey?” said Erdogan.
The views of the public and scholars on the reopening of Hagia Sophia could be considered, Destici added.
“We think that, on the reopening of Hagia Sophia, a solution which relieves the anxiety of various viewpoints could be found,” he said.
“Any external threat towards our country on Hagia Sophia will only accelerate the reopening process,” he added.
Hagia Sophia, called by historians the Eighth Wonder of the World, is one of the most-visited museums in the world and a gem of architectural history.
It was used as a church for 916 years. In 1453, it was converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul.
Following restoration work during the Ottoman era and the adding of minarets by architect Mimar Sinan, Hagia Sophia became one of the most important works of world architecture.
Under the Turkish Republic it became a museum.
Erdogan has highlighted how the Ottomans converted the building into a mosque, instead of razing it, a fate suffered by many mosques taken from Ottomans.
Erdogan has stated his intent to restore Hagia Sophia’s mosque status, and recently allowed a special Quran reading there.
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