73.3% of Turkish citizens are in favour of turning the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, according to a poll by pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak. Only 22.4% answered “No”, while 4.3% did not express an opinion.
The “Arenda” survey was conducted between June 2-5, 2020, immediately after the 567th anniversary of the Fall of the City and the reading of the Qur’an in Hagia Sophia, and was answered by 2,414 people.
68.2% of the participants liked the reading of the Qur’an in Hagia Sophia and would like to repeat it in the following years on the same day.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that Hagia Sophia is “not a matter of international affairs, but a matter of national sovereignty.”
However, because Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO site, Turkey would need approval from the Paris-based organization if it wants to avoid international condemnation and punishment that could include methods like sanctions.
Çavuşoğlu also spoke about the U.S. over its recently published 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, and said it is “tragicomical” for Washington to comment on freedom of religion and human rights.
The report released last month had Turkey once again on a the U.S. State Department’s “Special Watch List” on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), as reported by Greek City Times.
Turkey was the only country in NATO to be on the “Special Watch List” because “in 2019, religious freedom conditions in Turkey remained worrisome, with the perpetuation of restrictive and intrusive governmental policies on religious practice and a marked increase in incidents of vandalism and societal violence against religious minorities.”
The report also explained that “in several instances in 2019, Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek religious and cultural sites, including numerous cemeteries, faced severe damage or destruction—in some cases because of neglect, but also due to vandalism or state-endorsed construction projects.”
The report also went into detail about the threat of Hagia Sophia once again becoming a mosque under orders from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“President Erdoğan called multiple times for the Hagia Sophia, a historic Greek Orthodox basilica that has held legal status as a museum since 1935, to be converted back into a mosque. In November 2019, a Turkish higher court also issued a decision permitting the Chora (Kariye) Museum, a former Greek Orthodox church, to be converted back into a mosque—thereby possibly setting a precedent for the similar conversion of the Hagia Sophia,” the report said.