Unknown individuals have damaged the “Imperial Door,” also known as the “Emperor Door,” of Hagia Sophia, its largest — seven meters high — and most splendid entry, local media reported on Tuesday, citing tweets by the Art History Foundation (STD).
The foundation’s executive board on Monday stated in a series of tweets that they found out that the door, which is made of oak and has a bronze frame, was damaged after they received a complaint around 8:45 p.m.
Sharing a photo showing the damage to the door, they added that the security guard on duty told them he had no knowledge of the incident.
The foundation’s executives then talked to the chief security officer of Hagia Sophia, whom they referred to as Mr. Talip, according to the tweets, telling him that damaging such a first-degree historical monument as Hagia Sophia was a crime and that its perpetrators should be identified via security footage.
The officer then told the executives that there was no security footage of the incident, that it wasn’t a big deal anyway and that they would fix the damage to the door. When the executives said they would take the issue to a prosecutor for the criminals to be found, the officer accused them of being “ill-intentioned” and “wanting to cause a scene,” according to the tweets.
“We … will never accept [the fact] that such a person is responsible for the Hagia Sophia Mosque, one of the most important architectural works in the world. We’ll file separate complaints both in order to identify those who damaged the historic door and to remove this officer from his job. … Please don’t remain silent about this incident. We demand that … an investigation be launched as soon as possible,” the executives said.
Gelen bir şikayet fotoğrafı üzerine bu akşam (18.04.2022) saat 20.45 civarı Ayasofya Camisinin, tarihi “İmparatorluk Kapısının” bu halde olduğunu tespit ettim ve fotoğrafladım. Nöbetçi güvenlik müdürünün bilgim yok demesi üzerine ismini Talip Bey olduğunu söyleyen ve Ayasofya’nın pic.twitter.com/BH7qKNjVpg
— Sanat Tarihi Derneği (STD) (@SanatTarihiSTD) April 18, 2022
Despite international outrage, Hagia Sophia, which served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of İstanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 -– nearly half a millennium -– was converted into a mosque from a museum in July 2020 after a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned it into a museum.
For many observers, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque was an attempt to consolidate his power among Islamists.
The Turkish government has long been accused by its secular opponents of forcing Islamic values on the predominantly Muslim but strictly secular country.