Hagia Sophia: Iconic Istanbul museum ‘could return to mosque’



INSTANBUL: A Turkish court has annulled the museum status of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, a world-famous cultural site, enabling it to be converted into a mosque.

It is a controversial move, as 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia was founded as a cathedral. Later the Ottomans made it a mosque. In 1934 it became a museum.

It is a Unesco World Heritage site. Unesco earlier urged Turkey not to change its status without discussion.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the change.

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

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