‘Greek protest means nothing to us’: Turkish party head

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ANKARA 

Greece flying flags at half-mast and tolling church bells over last week’s opening of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Mosque are its internal matters and no concern of Turkey, said a Turkish opposition party leader on Monday.  

Athens seeing some claim over Hagia Sophia Mosque, which is well within Turkey’s legitimate and sovereign borders, is proof that Greece is stuck at 567 years ago, when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul, said a statement by Devlet Bahceli, head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Hagia Sophia Mosque was opened through the joint efforts of the People’s Alliance made up of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and MHP after a court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had made Hagia Sophia a museum. Before that, it had been a mosque for nearly 500 years.

Bahceli hailed the court ruling as the most important event in recent history, calling the Greek actions in response “fascistic.”

“This attitude of Greece does not serve stability, peace, or tranquility,” he added.

Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly 500 years – and most recently as a museum for 86 years.

In 1985, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Besides being a mosque, Hagia Sophia is also among Turkey’s top tourism destinations and will remain open for domestic and foreign visitors. 

*Writing by Havva Kara Aydin

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