Unesco asks Turkey to report on Hagia Sophia after mosque change

Muslims offer prayers on the first day of Eid Al Adha outside the iconic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul’s historic Sultan Ahmed district on July 20, 2021.
Image Credit: AP

Istanbul: The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations cultural agency, Unesco, on Friday asked Turkey to submit a report on the state of conservation of Hagia Sophia by early next year , expressing its “serious concern” about the consequences of its conversion into a mosque.

Turkey’s decision last year to convert the revered Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia Cathedral from a museum to a mosque has sparked fury in the international community and added to tensions with Greece.

A month later, Ankara ordered the conversion of another old Orthodox church into a mosque.

The Holy Savior of Chora was a medieval Byzantine church decorated with 14th century frescoes from the Last Judgment which remain valuable in the Christian world.

Both changes reflect President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to galvanize his more conservative and nationalist supporters at a time when Turkey suffers from economic hardship caused by the coronavirus.

The United Nations body’s World Heritage Committee requested Turkey to submit by 1 February 2022 “an updated report on the state of conservation of the property”.

He said he “deeply regrets the lack of dialogue and information” on Turkey’s intention to change the status of the Hagia Sophia and Chora museums.

The committee expressed “grave concern at the potential impact of changes on these key elements on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property” and urged Turkey to engage in international cooperation and dialogue before further changes are made. major are implemented on the property.

The World Heritage Committee meets in China for its annual session to review its list of sites with the coveted UNESCO World Heritage label, which is seen as boosting prestige and tourism.

If he is not satisfied with the state of conservation of a site it can be classified as endangered or even deleted, as happened this year with the waterfront in the English city of Liverpool.

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