Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Hagia Sophia have its doors open to all people, “Muslims and non-Muslims alike” during his address to the Turkish people on Friday night referring to the decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
The speech began at 20:53, with some Turkish media suggesting that the specific time had been chosen in advance, as it symbolised the year 2053 and the completion of 600 years since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
In his speech, the Turkish president stated, among other things, that … “we are canceling the paid entrance, as Hagia Sophia is leaving the museum status. The common world heritage of Hagia Sophia will continue to embrace the whole world with its new regime, in a sincere and authentic way.”
“The doors of Hagia Sophia will be open to everyone, locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
The Turkish President said the site would open on Friday, July 24 for Islamic prayer.
Erdogan went on to urge everyone to respect today’s decision … “I call on everyone to respect the decision on Hagia Sophia, which was taken by the judicial and executive bodies of our country. We understand all the views submitted in the international arena. However, the issue concerns Turkish sovereignty. In this context, we consider any attitude beyond the expression of opinion to be a violation of our independence.”
The decision by the Turkish Supreme Court on Friday repealed a 1934 Presidential decree which had converted the UNESCO World Heritage site into a museum, causing a global backlash with a number of nations and world institutions, including UNESCO and Orthodox Christian Churches criticising the development, saying it would create further divisions between Islam and Christianity leading to polarisation. The ruling paved the way for the current President to sign a decree which formalised the conversion of the Hagia Sophia, which had been the largest Christian Cathedral in the world for many centuries.