Muslim prayers have been held inside the enduring Hagia Sophia for the first time in 86 years after the reconversion of the Istanbul landmark right into a mosque earlier this month.
The Friday prayers happened weeks after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan controversially declared the just about 1,500-yr-antique monument open to Muslim worship after a high courtroom dominated the constructing’s conversion to a museum by fashionable Turkey’s founding statesman in the mid-1930s was illegal.
Erdogan, accompanied by cupboard minister and completely different high officers, joined lots of of worshippers inside Hagia Sophia as large crowds gathered outdoors.
The UNESCO world heritage website was constructed as a cathedral throughout the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 537 nonetheless transformed right into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
It was designated a museum in a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities below the trendy republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Erdogan acknowledged final yr it had been a “very huge mistake” to rework it right into a museum.
Critics nonetheless accuse Erdogan, who has been in energy for 17 years, of taking part in to his nationalistic base, with support eroding amid a worldwide financial downtown ensuing from the coronavirus pandemic.
Towering over Istanbul’s skyline, its breathtaking domes seemingly afloat, it is also thought of one among Turkey’s hottest vacationer sights, with 3.7 million guests in 2019.
Ummah Occasions Ahmad M Kawumah, reporting from Istanbul, acknowledged Friday was “a very massive day” in the town of some 18 million.
“The heart of the town, the ancient peninsula, is under total lockdown since last night,” she acknowledged.
in the sprawling sq. outdoors Hagia Sophia, authorities arrange separate areas for men and women to worship on Friday, whereas greater than 700 well being personnel, 101 ambulances and a helicopter ambulance had been accessible.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya requested that folks to convey 4 gadgets – “masks, prayer mats, patience and understanding”.
Turkey pledged to maintain Hagia Sophia, whose ground has been lined with a turqoise carpet, open to vacationers and welcome these of all faiths. Entry will now be free, whereas intricate mosaics of the Virgin Mary, child Jesus and different Christian symbols might be veiled by curtains at prayer time.
Recitation of the holy Quran will go on for the subsequent 24 hours and the revered landmark will keep open in a single day, based on state media stories.
All 5 prayers will henceforth even be held day by day on the mosque.
America, the European Union, Russia and varied church leaders expressed concern on the change in standing, whereas neighbouring Greece branded the transfer an “open provocation to the civilised world”.
The UN’s cultural company, UNESCO, mentioned it deeply regretted Turkey’s choice, which was “taken without prior dialogue”.
Erdogan insisted, nonetheless, it was Turkey’s “historical and sovereign right”.
Koseoglu mentioned Erdogan was anticipated to ship a brief speech after the prayer.
“This is a very historical moment for Turkey, especially the conservatives pro-Islamist electorate who have [long wanted] to pray inside.”
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