Turkey’s Erdogan Threatens to Turn Hagia Sophia to a Mosque

On the eve of Greek national day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced the possibility of reverting the Hagia Sophia to a mosque.

“This is not unlikely. We might even change its name to Ayasofya Mosque,” Erdogan said during a live interview with Turkish broadcaster TGRT.

“This is not a strange proposal,” he was quoted as saying by Daily Sabah regarding the calls to convert the historical building.

“As you know, the mosque was converted to a museum in 1935, as a reflection of the (Republican People’s Party) CHP mentality. We may as well take a step and change that,” he concluded, pointing to the harshly secularist policies of the 1930s CHP, which is the main opposition today.

Asked whether the entrance fee to the city landmark might be waived, he said: “It’s not impossible… but we would not do it under the name ‘museum’ but ‘Hagia Sophia mosque’.”

He added: “Tourists come and go at the Blue Mosque. Do they pay anything? … Well, we will do the same with the Hagia Sofia.”

Calls for Hagia Sophia to serve again as a mosque have caused anger among Christians and raised tensions between historic foes Turkey and Greece, both NATO members.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited the Hagia Sophia in February. “You can feel the burden of history here,” he told AFP.

Greece has repeatedly expressed concern over efforts to change the museum’s status.