Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 14th, 2020

Erdogan Rejects Global Criticism Over Hagia Sophia Decision

Erdogan Rejects Global Criticism  Over Hagia Sophia Decision

ANKARA - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected international condemnation over the decision to change the status of Istanbul's landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, saying it represented his country's will to use its "sovereign rights".
In the past, he has repeatedly called for the stunning building to be renamed as a mosque and in 2018, he recited a verse from the Quran at Hagia Sophia.
"Those who do not take a step against Islamophobia in their own countries ... attack Turkey's will to use its sovereign rights," Erdogan said at a ceremony he attended via video-conference on Saturday.
The colossal Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral and was converted into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, now Istanbul, in 1453. The secular Turkish government decided in 1934 to make it a museum.
Erdogan on Friday formally converted the building back into a mosque and declared it open for Muslim worship, hours after a high court annulled the 1934 decision turning it into a museum. He said Muslim prayers would begin at the UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 24.
International reactions
The president went ahead with the plan despite appeals from NATO ally the United States and from Russia, with which Ankara has forged close relations in recent years.
Greece swiftly condemned the move as a provocation, France deplored it while the US also expressed disappointment.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko on Saturday said Moscow regretted the decision.
"The cathedral is on Turkey's territory, but it is without question everybody's heritage," he told the Interfax news agency.
The World Council of Churches wrote to Erdogan expressing "grief and dismay" over the move and urged him to reverse his decision. (Aljazeera)