The country’s top administrative court ruled on Friday that the World Heritage site, which has operated as a world-famous museum since 1934, can be converted into a mosque again, in a big victory for the Islamic conservatism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The change was long sought by Turkey’s president.
Erdogan made the announcement on Friday an hour after the court ruling was revealed, despite international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument, revered by Christians and Muslims alike.
“The decision was taken to hand over the management of the Ayasofya Mosque … to the Religious Affairs Directorate and open it for worship,” the decision signed by Erdogan said.
“This court decision has made what we all know and experience in reality very clear, that today’s Turkey is not secular,” said one opponent.
UNESCO Official statement on Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia, part of the property “Historic Areas of Istanbul,” is inscribed on the #WorldHeritage List as a museum.
The inscription entails a number of legal commitments and obligations.
Turkey’s top administrative court said in the ruling.
“It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally,”
“The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws,” it said