Erdoğan Ignores Global Censure, Pushes Ahead with Hagia Sophia Plans
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spurned the widespread international criticism that arose over the weekend following his announcement regarding the renowned Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul. On Saturday, Erdoğan rebuked foreign leaders for attacking “Turkey’s will to use its sovereign rights.” On Friday, condemnation for Turkey’s decision to convert the historic site from a museum back to a mosque was sounded across the globe, with Russia, the US, NATO and many European countries calling on Erdoğan to reconsider his actions. Hagia Sophia, for centuries the world’s largest cathedral, was originally built as a Roman church in the sixth century. It was converted to a mosque by Ottoman conquerors in the 15th century. In 1935, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, stripped any religious features from the site and banned all praying and acts of worship inside the complex in an attempt to instill a secular form of government. In recent years, Erdoğan has repeatedly chipped away at the separation of religion and state, an act seen by many as an attempt to weaken his opposition inside the army and government.