Published: 2020-07-11 17:23
Last Updated: 2020-07-11 18:21
Hagia Sophia is scheduled to open for Friday prayers on July 24 after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday the museum would be converted back into a mosque.
Erdogan issued a decree transferring the management of the UNESCO World Heritage site from the Ministry of Culture to the Presidency of Religious Affairs, according to CNN.
The presidential decree came after the Turkish court annulled the historical site’s museum status, which was put in place in 1934 by President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
"Like all our mosques, its doors will be open to everyone - Muslim or non-Muslim. As the world's common heritage, Hagia Sophia with its new status will keep on embracing everyone in a more sincere way," said Erdogan.
Visitors and worshipers will not be charged an entrance fee.
"We will be treating every opinion voiced on the international stage with respect. But the way Hagia Sophia's will be used falls under Turkey's sovereign rights. We deem every move that goes beyond voicing an opinion a violation of our sovereignty," said the President.
Presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, told Anadolu Agency news the building would always play a part in the world's heritage and all Christian icons in the building will be preserved.
Greece's Culture Minister criticised Erdogan’s decision on Friday, describing the move as "an open provocation to the entire civilized world”.
Tonight, at 8:30pm, Roya’s Nabd Elbalad will be discussing the question: “Do you support Erdogan's decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque?”
Hagia Sophia was the Roman Empire's first Christian cathedral. It was converted into a mosque in 1453, when the Ottomans took over.
The Association for the Service of the Historical Foundations and the Environment filed a lawsuit 15 years ago calling for Hagia Sophia to become an active mosque again, but failed, reported Anadolu Agency.
A second lawsuit was filed four years ago claiming the violation of religious freedom and failed for the second time.
UNESCO said it "deeply regrets" Turkey's decision, especially since the organisation was not informed before the announcement was made.
"This extraordinary site is a testament to religious expression and to artistic and technical genius, reflected in its rich and complex 1,500-year history," said US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as he advised Turkey to preserve Hagia Sophia on Wednesday.
Erdogan expressed his frustration with the opposing international response.
Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, said Hagia Sophia is Turkey’s property and while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, talking about Turkish sovereignty in a threatening manner is considered overstepping.