Erdoğan restores mosque status of Hagia Sophia after court verdict: report

View of Hagia Sophia, Christian patriarchal basilica, imperial mosque and now a museum.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan restored the mosque status of İstanbul’s Hagia Sophia with a presidential decree on Friday, following a top administrative court ruling, news web site Turkish Minute reported.

Turkey’s Council of State announced on Friday it had annulled a 1934 government decree turning İstanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a museum, ruling it was unlawful, paving the way for the building’s conversion back into mosque despite international warnings against such a move, Reuters reported.

Erdoğan had proposed restoring the mosque status of the sixth-century UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.

The prospect of such a move had raised alarm among US, Russian and Greek officials and Christian church leaders ahead of a verdict by Turkey’s top administrative court, the Council of State, which held a hearing last Thursday.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said a conversion would disappoint Christians and “fracture” East and West. The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church said it would threaten Christianity.

Meanwhile, Özer Sencar, head of the MetroPOLL polling company, on Friday tweeted the findings of a survey on the way the issue is perceived among the Turkish public and among different age groups.

According to the results, an overwhelming 78.5 percent of the 18-25 age group said the move would not change their view of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), while overall 55 percent said their view would not change.

Respondents who said their opinion of the AKP would be positively affected by the decision totaled 27.2 percent, while 11.4 percent said it would have a negative impact and 6.4 percent said they did not have an opinion.

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