13 July 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed on Friday that the “resurrection” of the ancient Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul as a mosque bodes well for the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He made the declaration during an event in Istanbul marking the official reversion of Hagia Sophia from a museum into a Muslim house of worship.

Hagia Sophia, a major tourist attraction listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, was built as a church in 537 C.E. during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian and became the seat of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople until the Ottoman liberation in 1453, when it was converted into a mosque. Then, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Turkey’s secular leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, converted the mosque into a museum.

Erdoğan’s democratically elected government has been aspiring to revert the status of Hagia Sophia since 2013.

According to the pro-government Turkish daily, Yeni Şafak, Erdoğan said during the ceremony that the “resurrection of Hagia Sophia was the harbinger of the liberation of Masjid al-Aqsa [Al-Aqsa Mosque] and footsteps of Muslims’ will to leave hard days behind.”

Erdoğan announced at the event that the mosque will be open for Friday Salaah on July 24.

Erdoğan frequently highlights the Turkish and Muslim responsibility to Masjid Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In a video message on social media on May 25, he said, “We will not allow Palestinian lands to be offered to anyone.”

In the video, in honor of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, Erdoğan said, “I would like to reiterate that al Quds as-Sharif , the holy place of the three religions … is a red line for all Muslims in the world,” he said.