Erdogan inching closer to reopening Hagia Sophia as a mosque: report

Erdogan inching closer to reopening Hagia Sophia as a mosque: report
Turkish officials are reportedly frustrated with with what they perceive as Greek infringements on Turkey's sovereignty.
2 min read
05 June, 2020
The Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1935 [Getty]

Turkey may soon open the Hagia Sophia to regular Islamic prayers, changing the former Greek Orthodox cathedral's museum status, according to Turkish media reports.

According to a report in Turkey's Hurriyet daily on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked officials to explore the possible change during a ruling party meeting.

The president's order was reportedly spurred on by frequent Greek objections to Muslim worship being conducted at the site, including over prayers held in the building to commemorate the conquest of Istanbul last month.

Turkish leaders view the complaints as challenges to Turkey's sovereign rights, according to the Hurriyet report.

The Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral in 537, however became a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. In 1935 - 12 years after the collapse of the Ottoman empire - the building was converted into a museum by ardent secularist Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Restoring the building as a mosque has long been a demand of Turkish conservatives.

Turkey and Greece have often locked horns over issues of territorial issues, including over gas drilling in the Mediterranean and over Cyprus.

In recent months, tensions between the two states have risen over the issue of migrants in the region following Turkey's announcement in February that it would no longer stop migrants from attempting to cross into Europe.

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