Turkey’s Hagia Sophia retains initial Friday prayers since conversion again to mosque

Turkey's Hagia Sophia holds first Friday prayers since conversion back to mosque

Visuals on Turkish state television showed crowds of Muslims praying in and about the mosque on Friday early morning.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in the Friday prayers, exactly where he recited verses of the Quran.

Some folks arrived from outdoors Istanbul and expended the night time about Hagia Sophia waiting around for the prayer, in accordance to CNN Turk.

Only 500 folks had been invited inside the creating because of coronavirus limits, according to Turkey’s religious affairs director Ali Erbas. Thousands a lot more prayed in the backyard garden and in Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul’s aged metropolis.

Very last 7 days, Erdogan requested the conversion of the historic monument just after a court docket annulled a 1934 presidential decree that created it a museum.

The decision, involving a person of the city’s most crucial landmarks and a UNESCO Globe Heritage web-site, has been criticized by intercontinental spiritual and political leaders, with UN cultural company UNESCO between these voicing problem.

Even so, the shift has not prompted broad opposition in Turkey.

The Turkish govt has tried to reassure skeptics that the building’s Christian artworks and frescoes will not be touched, with technological know-how as a substitute getting made use of to conceal them all through Friday prayers.

Men take part in Friday prayers outside Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on July 24, 2020.
The Hagia Sophia was the Roman Empire’s to start with Christian cathedral and is amongst the very best-regarded Byzantine buildings in the entire world. It switched from a Greek Orthodox cathedral to a mosque in 1453, when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and renamed the city Istanbul.
The historic website then became a museum in 1935 as element of a decree by modern-day Turkey’s secularist founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Erdogan has positioned himself as a good friend of conservative Islamists in Turkey, moving the country even further from individuals secularist roots.

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UNESCO reported earlier this thirty day period that it “deeply regrets” Turkey’s decision and that the choice was made devoid of the organization acquiring prior notification.

Pope Francis said he was “very saddened” by the building’s conversion. Greece’s society minister, in the meantime, decried the transfer as “an open provocation to the complete civilized entire world.”
Workmen dismantle the Hagia Sophia Museum ticket booth on July 17, 2020 in Istanbul.

Turkish officers have emphasised that when it is not remaining utilised as a mosque, the Hagia Sophia — which is preferred with travellers checking out Istanbul — will be open up to all to go to totally free of cost, in accordance to point out-operate news agency Anadolu.

Erdogan applied a televised speech on July 10 to urge persons to regard the selection to convert the building back again to a mosque.

“Like all our mosques, its doorways will be open to all people — Muslim or non-Muslim. As the world’s widespread heritage, Hagia Sophia with its new status will preserve on embracing every person in a additional honest way,” he said.

“We will be managing each and every feeling voiced on the intercontinental stage with respect. But the way Hagia Sophia will be utilised falls beneath Turkey’s sovereign legal rights. We deem every shift that goes outside of voicing an view a violation of our sovereignty.”

CNN’s Isil Sariyuce and Arwa Damon noted from Istanbul and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. Emma Reynolds contributed to this report.

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