Turkey’s 1934 transformation of the Hagia Sophia into a museum was a wrong decision, which is being corrected by its reconversion into a mosque, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesay.
“We turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, albeit through a wrong decision, and now we are returning it into a mosque,” T24 news site cited Erdoğan as saying during a cabinet meeting. “We correcting a mistake. It’s that simple.”
On Friday, Erdoğan ordered the conversion of the city’s historic Hagia Sophia back into a mosque after a court annulled a 1934 presidential decree that made it a museum.
The move to reconvert the structure – built as a Greek Orthodox cathedral in the 6th century before becoming a mosque following the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Istanbul – has been met with international condemnation. Critics accuse Erdoğan of using the iconic structure as a political tool to appease a long-standing demand by Islamists.
“I would like to underline that Hagia Sophia was converted not from a church to a mosque, but from a museum to a mosque,” Erdoğan said.
The president also said that the structure would be protected by preserving its qualities of cultural heritage.
“Hagia Sophia, which was taken with its dome in ruins, has been turned into a literal work of ours with its complexes, minarets, fountains, imaret, baths, school, public fountain, mausoleum and many additions,” he added.