July 19, 2016

Erdogan's Threat To Turn The Hagia Sophia Back To A Mosque Remains Very Serious And Could Be Realized In Light of Recent Events

An excerpt from, "The battle for Haghia Sophia in Istanbul escalates" By Pinar Tremblay, Al-Monitor, June 15, 2016:
A Greek diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor, “In the last five years, Turkey has converted three other churches with the name Haghia Sophia into mosques and senior Turkish government officials keep using Haghia Sophia on social media and other platforms as a bargaining chip whenever something goes against their wishes. This is a monumental building with immense symbolic value for Christians, so we are worried about it becoming a sacrifice for populist policies.”

Aris Abaci, a researcher in Turkish-Greek relations, told Al-Monitor that both sides are sticking to their usual style of fighting words, yet he observed that the rebuttal of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs this time was different. Abaci said, “For the first time, we see that the Turkish official language argues modernity should not be presented as if it is against Islam. It also indicates that it views Haghia Sophia exclusively from a religious angle.” Abaci added that both sides are approaching the issue in terms of identity politics, hence ending up at a zero-sum game.

Angelos Syrigos, an assistant professor of international law and foreign policy at Panteion University in Athens, agrees that the main fear behind the Greek reaction is that Haghia Sophia will soon be turned into a mosque. “The reason for the transformation will be the need of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to increase his popularity in view of a referendum that will introduce Turkey to the presidential system,” he told Al-Monitor.
An excerpt from, "Quran readings at Istanbul's Hagia Sophia stoke fears in Greece, Turkey" AFP, June 22, 2016:
The recitation, broadcast live on Diyanet TV, aroused a furious reaction from Greece, which for years has warily eyed what Athens sees a creeping Islamisation of the building.

"This kind of obsession — bordering on bigotry — for holding Muslim ceremonies in a monument that belongs to the patrimony of humanity is incomprehensible and shows a lack of respect and contact with reality," Greece’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said he had written to the UN's cultural heritage agency UNESCO to complain about its use.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington "would encourage the Turkish government to preserve the Hagia Sophia in a way that respects its traditions and its complex history."
Video Title: Hagia Sophia: A Walk-Through. Source: Real Crusades History. Date Published: July 11, 2016.