The AHEPAN Fall 2020 - 13

Arild Vågen

The Conversion of
Hagia Sophia to a Mosque.
What can the West do?
DR. GRIGORIOS PANAGAKOS

I

n July 2020, the Council of State of Turkey annulled its
previous verdict regarding the status of Hagia Sophia.
The Council ruled that because the initial registration of
the monument in the archives of the institution to which
Hagia Sophia belongs was recorded as a mosque, it is
not possible to change that original usage. Two opposite
decisions had preceded it. One, in 2005, when Ismail Kaderim,
head of the Union for the Service of Historic Foundations and
the Environment, filed a lawsuit for returning the monument
to mosque's status; and a second, in 2016, for violation of
religious freedom. The first decision was rejected ultimately
on the grounds there was no legal violation of the operation of
Hagia Sophia as a museum. The second lawsuit was dismissed
in 2018 as unfounded.

Why did Erdogan make the Hagia Sophia a mosque?
Based on this court decision, Erdogan signed a decree on the
same day and made a televised speech followed by several

www.ahepa.org	

statements announcing the conversion of Hagia Sophia from
a museum to a mosque. The reasons cited by Erdogan and his
party are the following:
1. We are bound by the court's decision.
2. The Turkish people want it.
3. Simply because we can. It is solely within our jurisdiction
as derived from our sovereign rights.
4. In Turkey we generally review various decisions of previous years in relation to our State and the decision on Hagia
Sophia is part of them.
The court ruling, which has clearly changed over time without anyone knowing whether the change is a product of freewill
and independent justice practices or of political enforcement, is
not binding for Erdogan. Therefore, the argument of the dominance of the court's ruling over the decision of the executive
branch, is generally weak. The argument that the Turkish people want it, is controlled as doubtful since it depends on how
and in what ways it is ascertained. Turkey is a world champion

Fall 2020 · THE AHEPAN | 13



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