Last Friday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, signed a decree to convert the former Basilica of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The emblematic cathedral, great importance for both Christians and Muslims, will become a place of worship for the Muslim religion from July 24, thus opening a series of political conflicts with the European Union and especially with Greece, which described the action as a provocation.
«A provocation to the civilized world«, as the Greek Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, described the recent decisions of Erdogan, in addition, representatives of the Greek church accused the Turkish president of using the cultural heritage of Hagia Sophia as an instrument for his political purposes.
The tense relations between Greece and Turkey have found how to sharpen due to refugee and migrant issues, although the disputes of both countries date back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the director of the Greek Institute of International Relations, Konstantinos Filis, assured AFP, that the action will be taken as a provocation not only by Greece but also by the West thus worsening diplomatic relations, he also emphasized that the Turkish president would have a double message, «Turkey’s aggressiveness for a year in the region: its attempts to exploit energy resources in the southeast Mediterranean, followed by the invasion of northern Syria and recently Iraq, as well as its interference in the conflict in Libya«.
The controversy caused by the decisions of the Danistay (Turkish Administrative Court) was felt by Pope Francis, “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Hagia Sophia. I am very sorry«, and by UNESCO, which through its website criticized the measures adopted by the Turkish nationalist government, assuring that they had been taken without prior dialogue and because the building has been a cultural heritage since 1985, each change must be communicated and then reviewed by the UNESCO committee.
THE BASILICA OF SANTA SOFIA
It was the jewel of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Despite the fact that there are almost no traces of the original – burned by the revolts in Constantinople in 404 – it preserves marble pieces from the time of the second reconstruction, the current version is the third one built on the site. The previous ones were destroyed in 404 and 532. It was converted into a museum in 1934 before it was first a basilica and then a mosque.