Erdoğan says Hagia Sophia could be converted from museum into a mosque

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A stray dog stands in front of the Hagia Sophia Museum at the Blue mosque (Sultan Ahmet) district during snowfalls in Istanbul on January 8, 2017. Heavy snow blanketed Istanbul for a second day on January 8, 2017, resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of flights and more disruption for thousands of travellers. The snowfall was forecast to lessen later in the day but unusually cold temperatures, even for the time of year, well below freezing were expected throughout the week / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has changed his stance on the historic Hagia Sophia in İstanbul, which currently serves as a museum, saying that after local elections on March 31, they might convert it into a mosque.

“Visiting Hagia Sophia could be free of charge after the elections. We could open Hagia Sophia to visitors as a mosque instead of a museum,” Erdoğan said in a TV interview on Sunday night. 

On March 16, however, Erdoğan had ruled out such a demand by Islamists in the country, saying the mosque across from Hagia Sophia should be filled with a congregation for prayers. Erdoğan always brings up converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque as it was in the Ottoman era during election campaigns.

The monument. which was a church before the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, became a mosque under Ottoman rule. Since the establishment of secular Turkey in 1923, it has served as a museum open to visitors for a fee. Erdoğan said that if Hagia Sophia is changed into a mosque, it could be free of charge for all to visit just like any other mosque. He criticized the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for turning the historic structure into a museum in the past.

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