Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday commemorated the first anniversary of the reopening of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia as a mosque, calling the iconic 16th-century structure a ‘’symbol of the revival’’ of Turkish civilisation.’
The Turkish president made the remarks on Twitter, where he shared a video of the first Friday prayer at the Hagia Sophia last year after a decades-long hiatus and said he hoped for the call for Muslims prayers and the Quran would never abandon the converted structure “until the end of time.’’
Built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, later turned the building into a museum in 1934.
Last July, Erdoğan signed a presidential decree allowing the 6th-century UNESCO World Heritage site to function as a mosque again, in a move that was met with international condemnation. The order came after a Turkish high court revoked the site’s decades-long status as a museum.
The anniversary of Hagia Sophia arrives as the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has requested Turkey to submit a report by early next year on the structure, expressing “grave concerns” about the conservation of the historic building in light of Turkey’s plans to convert it into a mosque.