Will Hagia Sophia return to the mosque? Within 15 days the decision of the Ankara judges

Within 15 days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will know if his desire to return the former Hagia Sophia mosque, one of the landmarks of Istanbul, to become a reality, or if new incursions are needed. The Ankara State Council announced today that the decision on whether to convert Ayasofya from museum to mosque will be made known in writing within 15 days. This morning, in fact, the hearing was held on the appeal filed by a local association to request the modification of the status of the monument, which since 1935 has been a museum. An appeal blatantly supported by President Erdoğan, who on 29 May, 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, gave a clear signal of where he wants to go, making Islamic prayer resound under those now deconsecrated times.

Christian basilica for almost a millennium, converted into a mosque after the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a museum in 1935 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

During the hearing, which lasted about half an hour, the judges of the 10th section of the highest Turkish administrative court listened to the reasons for the request presented by the Association for the protection of historical monuments and the environment. According to their lawyer, Selami Karaman, the transformation into a museum would have violated the “property right” of Sultan Muhammad II and his heirs, which would have been acquired with the conquest of the city. The prosecutor instead claimed that the status of the monument depends on the government authorities – as happened with the Ataturk decree – and therefore asked to reject the appeal.

According to this thesis, the president could still decide in a discretionary way in this regard. The verdict, the judges said, can be issued at any time in the next two weeks. In the event of a ruling in favor of a change in status, further regulatory intervention by the executive will still be required.

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