Erdoğan says Hagia Sophia will feature in new Turkish passport

Erdogan Turkish passport Hagia Sophia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the issuance of new national passports on Monday night.

Following the cabinet meeting, the Turkish president noted that preparations for the new passports have been under way for some time.

He even explained that in the middle of the passports, which are expected to be ready in August, will feature the Hagia Sophia Cethedral, while on its its first pages will be Top Kapi.

"We have created the infrastructure for the production of passports in our country, the supply of which has become difficult due to the crisis with the chips," the Turkish president said on Twitter.

"The pages of our new passport, which is one of the safest passports in the world, start with the Topkapi Palace and end with the first parliament building and right in the middle is the Hagia Sophia.

"We hope that our new passport, which will be issued to our citizens from August, will be beneficial for our country and our nation."

Originally built as a Christian Orthodox church and serving that purpose for centuries, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans upon their conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Legends About What Lies Under Hagia Sophia

In 1934, it was declared a museum by the secularist Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

As of June 24 2020, Hagia Sophia’s icons of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ are covered by fabric curtains as the edifice yet again changes functions.

READ MORE: Turkish media question how Greek pilots adapted so quickly to Rafale jets; suggests pilots are French not Greek!

Elsewhere, Erdoğan has pledged that his country would not drive Syrian refugees back to their home country despite pressure from opposition parties amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.

More than 3.6 million Syrian refugees have taken shelter in Turkey since 2011 when an uprising turned into a bloody war, killing nearly 400,000 and displacing more than half the country’s population.

Last week, the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said his party would return Syrian refugees to their homeland within two years of him coming to power.

“We will protect up to the end these brothers who fled the war and took refuge in our country” no matter what the CHP leader claims, Erdogan said in a televised address.

“We will never expel them from this land. Our door is wide open to them. We will continue to host them. We will not throw them into the lap of murderers.”

Erdoğan is facing rising public anger over the refugees and is wary of the issue dominating next year’s presidential elections.

Turkey has welcomed nearly five million refugees in total, including Syrians and Afghans, but their presence has caused tensions with locals, especially as the country is in economic turmoil with the weakening lira and soaring energy and food prices.

Last week, the Turkish president announced that Turkey would build enough local infrastructure in northwestern Syria to house 1 million refugees – in addition to the tens of thousands of units already built.

The Idlib region in northwest Syria – home to some three million internally displaced people – is under the control of jihadist groups that have been backed by Turkey for years and remains the last rebel-held pocket in Syria.

It is unclear how many Syrians have so far returned to their country since hostilities relatively subsided. In 2021, the UN refugee agency verified or monitored the return of about 36,000 refugees to Syria.

Refugees consider various reasons in their decision to return, including their overall safety, property rights, as well as job opportunities.

According to numbers released by the United Nations, more than 350,000 people were killed in the conflict, but rights groups say the death toll surpasses 500,000.

READ MORE: Athens illuminated in the colours of Ukraine for Europe Day (PHOTOS)