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.