Loud and vocal statements of condemnation and outrage followed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s move to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Statements ranged from “disappointment” from the U.S. State Department to “outrage” and “condemnation” from various Greek American organizations, American politicians and Greek government officials.
“We are disappointed by the decision by the Government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said. “This building is an important part of the ‘Historic Sites of Istanbul’ UNESCO World Heritage Site, in recognition of its rich multicultural history.”
The Washington DC-based American Hellenic Institute called on the Trump Administration and Congress to act to condemn Erdogan’s “sordid act,” while the Order of AHEPA condemned the action “in the strongest way.”
In a tweet, David Harris, President of the American Jewish Council, called it a “sad day for all who care about history, religious tradition and coexistence in Turkey” and continued writing “President Erdogan has ignored the pleas of many nations, including the US, in his zeal to impose a narrow religious agenda—one aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood—on his country.”
Numerous American elected officials added their outrage.
U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis called the act “arrogant and inhuman” in a powerful statement.
“Now in a clear demonstration of arrogance and inhumanity, Erdogan has turned his back on the international community,” Bilirakis said. “Why such a move now? The Blue Mosque is across the street from the Hagia Sophia. The Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent is blocks away, as are innumerable other mosques. They are all places of worship for Muslims. Yet, other Byzantine sites have been recently converted back to mosques, a disturbing trend.”
Rep. Brad Schneider from Illinois blasted Erdogan, calling Hagia Sophia a “revered Holy Site…not a political pawn for divisive autocrats.”
U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called Erdogan’s move a “slap in the face to the international community, the Greek community, & Orthodox Christians.”
The President or the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades called the act a “provocation against the civilized world” in a tweet while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a strongly-worded statement that the move would impact Greek-Turkish relations.
“Greece condemns in the strongest terms Turkey’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. This decision— that came 85 years since its designation as a museum— is an offense to its universal nature,” Mitsotakis said. “This is a decision that offends all those who acknowledge the monument as part of world civilisation. Of course, this affects Turkey’s relations not only with Greece but also with the European Union, UNESCO and the global community as a whole.”
The powerful Russian Orthodox Church added its dismay, as spokesman Validimir Legoida told Interfax news agency “the concerns of millions of Christians were not heard.”
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