In an official statement released on Friday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned Turkey’s July 13 decision to convert the Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.
PACE’s Committee on Culture, Science, Education & Media labeled the act as “a discriminatory step backward, that clearly undermines Turkey’s secular identity and multicultural legacy.”
The Hagia Sophia, protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, is one of the holiest sites in Orthodox Christianity. Built where a fourth-century church once stood, the Hagia Sophia was constructed in the sixth century and is one of the best surviving examples of Byzantine architecture.
After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Hagia Sofia was converted into a mosque, and many precious mosaics were destroyed. The rise of secularism in Turkey during the early 12th century culminated in the transformation of the site from a mosque into a museum.
Turkey’s decision to change the site once again has faced overwhelming criticism internationally. Many view the act as a nod to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s base of religious nationalists.