The American Hellenic Institute (AHI), a non-profit Greek American think tank, has called on the US Administration and Congress to express outrage at Turkey's reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
AHI released the following statement late Friday:
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) strongly condemns Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s formal action that changes Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque. The Congress and the Secretary of State must vocally and unambiguously express the outrage of the American people at this sordid act.
“Members of the U.S. Congress, in both chambers, and Administration officials, who profess to be persons of faith and advocates of religious freedom must immediately implement every policy at their disposal to demonstrate that this act is intolerable,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said.
Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of “outstanding universal value.” By this deplorable act, Turkey adds to its pattern of rejecting international norms, international institutions, laws, and treaties. Erdogan has exiled from the political and social life of Turkey any notion of religious tolerance.
Organizations such as AHI have repeatedly publicized the fact that Turkey is erasing its religious and cultural heritage by suppressing of the freedom of its religious minorities to worship as they see proper. In a February 11, 2020 statement, AHI condemned a Turkish administrative court’s ruling in which the court that denigrated Turkey’s Christian heritage. AHI presciently stated that, “The decision is an ominous precedent for any church that later served as a mosque, particularly Hagia Sophia.” Today, Erdogan has made this prediction a reality.
AHI has long maintained that Turkey violates U.S. principles and law on freedom of religion as they are set forth in Section 2804 of the FY98 Omnibus Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (PL 105-277). This law calls for the Turkish government to safeguard the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its personnel, and its property, and to reopen the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.
Furthermore, Turkey violates every tenet of the International Religious Freedom Act (IFRA). The IRFA mandates that the President hold Turkey accountable for such violations. The President make take one or more of 15 enumerated actions against a country which so blatantly acts against religious freedom.
When the United States International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued its 2020 report on Turkey, AHI contended Turkey should have been designated as a “country of particular concern.” Today’s action by President Erdogan further justifies that designation for Turkey in the Commission’s report next year.
The United States’ and international community’s appeasement of Turkey must end. Otherwise, Turkey will continue with its provocative acts, such has today’s reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which are egregious and without fear of repercussion.