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Turkish communists criticize Erdogan’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia to a mosque

Sunday 12 July 2020, by siawi3


Turkish communists criticize Erdogan’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia to a mosque

The decision of right-wing Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to permit worship at the Hagia Sophia Museum has been widely condemned as a ploy to appease Muslim hardliners

July 11, 2020

by Peoples Dispatch

Since 1935, Hagia Sophia remained as a museum in Istanbul and also enlisted as a property on UNESCO’s World Heritage List from 1985.

On July 11, Saturday, the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) condemned the decision of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to convert the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul to a mosque. On Friday, the right-wing president of Turkey signed a decree that permits the use of the 1500-year-old Hagia Sophia as a mosque. Turkish authorities also revoked the site’s 80-year-old status as a museum, which is also a World Heritage Site.

The TKP declared that this is a conflict between reactionism and secularism. The TKP pointed out that it was not only Erdogan’s right-wing Justice & Development Party (AKP), but also many in the Republican People’s Party (CHP) who were enthusiastic about the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

In its statement on Saturday, TKP said that “the religious fundamentalism of AKP has transformed each and every public institution in Turkey, including law, academia, education, press, and every other aspect of social life, rendering these areas… dominated by the rules of Islam. TKP has repeatedly addressed the anti-worker role of reaction and religious fundamentalism which oppresses every single bit of resistance within the working class and replaces the organized power of united workers with apolitical obedient masses. The danger of reaction is more than it appears on the surface.”

The progressive sections in Turkey view this move as a dangerous ploy by Erdogan to compensate for his declining popularity by appeasing the religious orthodox sections and consolidating their support.

Hagia Sophia is an epitome of the Byzantine architecture which was built in AD 537 and functioned as a church till the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Following the capture of the city by the Turks that year, it became a mosque. In 1935, it was turned into a museum by first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) has also condemned Erdogan’s policy on Hagia Sophia and stated that the decision reflects the escalation of Turkish aggression which is supported by the imperialists.



Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns iconic Istanbul museum into mosque

10 July 2020

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A woman wrapped in a Turkish national flag gestures outside the Hagia Sophia museum

The world-famous Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul - originally founded as a cathedral - has been turned back into a mosque.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the decision after a court annulled the site’s museum status.

Built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

In 1934 it became a museum and is now a Unesco World Heritage site.

Islamists in Turkey long called for it to be converted to a mosque but secular opposition members opposed the move. The proposal prompted criticism from religious and political leaders worldwide.

Defending the decision, President Erdogan stressed that the country had exercised its sovereign right in converting it back to a mosque.

He told a press conference the first Muslim prayers would be held inside the building on 24 July.

“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.

A change is coming to Hagia Sophia, which has endured since the 6th century, outlasting the Byzantine empire and the Ottoman era. Now, once again, it will be a mosque. But Turkish officials say Christian emblems, including mosaics of the Virgin Mary which adorn its soaring golden dome, will not be removed.

Making changes at Hagia Sophia is profoundly symbolic. It was Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who decreed that it should be a museum. President Erdogan is now taking one more step to dismantle Ataturk’s secular legacy, and remould Turkey according to his vision. The Turkish leader - who presents himself as a modern day conqueror - is making no apologies for the change. He says anyone who doesn’t like it - and plenty abroad don’t - is attacking Turkey’s sovereignty.

Reclaiming Hagia Sophia plays well with his base - religious conservatives - and with Turkish nationalists. Critics say he’s using the issue to distract attention from the economic damage done here by the Covid19 pandemic.

But many in the international community argue that the monument belongs to humanity - not to Turkey - and should have remained unchanged. They say it was a bridge between two faiths, and a symbol of co-existence.

Shortly after the announcement, the first call to prayer was recited at Hagia Sophia and was broadcast on all of Turkey’s main news channels. The cultural site’s social media channels have now been taken down.
What has the reaction been?

Unesco has said it “deeply regrets” the decision to turn the museum into a mosque and called on the Turkish authorities to “open a dialogue without delay.”

The organisation had urged Turkey not to change its status without discussion.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Hagia Sophia has huge significance as a religious and political symbol

The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church has condemned the move, as has Greece - home to many millions of Orthodox followers.

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said it was an “open provocation to the civilised world”.

“The nationalism displayed by President Erdogan... takes his country back six centuries,” she said in a statement.

The court ruling “absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice” in Turkey, she added.