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Hagia Sophia will be called a mosque – Erdogan

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says tourists who will come to visit mosques in Istanbul will visit "Hagia Sophia not as a museum, but as a mosque."
Hagia Sophia will be called a mosque – Erdogan
Istanbul's Hagia Sophia museum will be called a mosque from now on, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
"Hagia Sophia will no longer be called a museum. Its status will change. We will call it a mosque," Erdogan said during a live televised programme.

Tourists who will come to visit mosques in Istanbul will visit "Hagia Sophia not as a museum, but as a mosque," the president said.
Slamming criticism of the decision by foreign officials, Erdogan recalled their silence over the attacks on Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque.
"Those who remain silent when Masjid Al Aqsa is attacked, trampled, its windows smashed, cannot tell us what to do about the status of Hagia Sofia," he said.
Hagia Sophia, dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by historians, is one of the most visited places in the world in terms of art and architecture history.

Built in 537 CE, it was famous for its massive dome. It was an engineering marvel, the world's largest building at the time. Historians consider it the high point of Byzantine architecture.
The Hagia Sophia was the Roman Empire's first Christian cathedral and is among the best-known Byzantine structures in the world. It switched from a Greek Orthodox cathedral to a mosque in 1453, when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and renamed the city Istanbul.
The historic site then became a museum in 1935 as part of a decree by modern Turkey's secularist founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The building is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
UNESCO said it "deeply regrets" Turkey's decision and that the choice was made without the organization receiving prior notification.
"Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

Erdogan has expressed annoyance at international opposition to the plan, led by neighbor Greece. "They say 'don't convert Aya Sofya into a mosque,'" he said in an interview with state broadcaster TRT on July 5. "Are you ruling Turkey or us? Turkey has institutions. If that step [is] to be taken It is obvious who has authority to do that."
In a statement released Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Turkey to maintain the UNESCO World Heritage Site "as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey, and to ensure it remains accessible to all."

He said the site's museum status had enabled people from all over the world to see a "magnificent achievement."
"This extraordinary site is a testament to religious expression and to artistic and technical genius, reflected in its rich and complex 1,500-year history," he said.
"The United States views a change in the status of the Hagia Sophia as diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building and its unsurpassed ability -- so rare in the modern world -- to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures."

A spokesman for Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was "astonished" by Pompeo's statement.

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