Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni on Thursday sent a letter to representatives of all the member-states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sounding the alarm over Turkish government plans to reconvert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
“Hagia Sofia must not be allowed to be divested of its universal character and turned into a Muslim place of worship,” Mendoni said in the letter, arguing that the 6th century monument was bequeathed to humanity in 1934 when the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, passed a decree converting it into a museum.
“What the Turkish government and President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan are attempting to do today revives and reignites fanatical nationalist and religious sentiment. It is an attempt to reduce the monument’s value and international radiance,” warned Mendoni, accusing the Turkish government of exploiting the site for political expediency and of ushering 15th century conditions into the 21st.
Mendoni added that reconverting Hagia Sophia into a mosque would also require the approval of UNESCO, which listed the site as a monument of world heritage in 1985. Turkey, she said, signed the UNESCO Convention in 1972 and would be in violation of the agreement by making such a move without approval.