With the popularity of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan diminishing due to the declining economic situation and Turkey's failed invasions of Syria and Libya that resulted in hundreds of dead Turkish soldiers, he is now attempting to shift the public's focus from domestic issues towards appeasement of the country's radical Islamists.
On Thursday it was announced that Islamic prayers and recitals will be held at Hagia Sophia on Friday to commemorate the Fall of Constantinople as part of celebrations organised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as reported by Greek City Times.
Erdoğan held true to his promise on Friday and Islamic prayers were conducted in Hagia Sophia to commemorate the day in 1453 when 30,000 Christians were enslaved, tens of thousands of civilians slaughtered and thousands of women raped.
Turkish President joins the prayer broadcast live from Hagia Sophia, recites the Turkish translation of the Conquest Chapter in full for the nation following original Arabic recital by Imam. #Erdogan's Islamist base that wants to turn it into a mosque again gets a new vigor. pic.twitter.com/uRdVEDE08H
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) May 29, 2020
The Greek Foreign Ministry commented on this provocative action yesterday, saying that the "reading of excerpts from the Qur'an inside Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the World Cultural Heritage Site, and that has been a museum since 1935, is an unacceptable attempt to alter its monumental character and provoke a response to their religious sentiment."
"This action offends the international community and re-exposes Turkey, which must respect both the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and UNESCO, of which it is a member," the statement continued.
"We call once again on Turkey to respect its international obligations and to stop subordinating its highly honourable role in internal affairs as the custodian of such an important monument as Hagia Sophia, which belongs to all mankind," the Foreign Ministry's statement concluded.
Although Constantinople was just a shadow of its former self after the Catholic Fourth Crusade in 1204 which destroyed the city and resulted in the empire’s rapid decline, it still took the 100,000-strong Ottoman army 53 days to capture the city from only 10,000 defenders.
With the eventual collapse of the city, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II allowed his soldiers three days to loot the city that saw thousands of women raped, widespread murder, and 30,000 civilians enslaved.
Hagia Sophia was built in 537 but turned into a mosque following the Ottoman capture of Constantinople May 29, 1453. It was then turned into a museum in 1935 shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Turkish Republic.