DOHA (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 14th July, 2020) Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the president of Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) as well as the head of Arab Regional Center for World Heritage, said she deeply regretted the fact that Hagia Sophia in Istanbul became the subject of conflict and division instead of unification in the wake of Ankara's decision to convert it into a mosque.
Al-Khalifa described the Hagia Sophia monument as a "unique ancient site and a distinguished cultural heritage icon," as cited by the Bahrain news Agency, stressing the necessity of reaching "a consensus among religious scholars as well as cultural and heritage experts," while regretting that the "monument has become a subject of disagreement and division,"
Last week, Turkey's top administrative court, the Council of State, annulled a 1934 decree designating Hagia Sophia a museum. Immediately after, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree to convert the cathedral into a mosque and allow Muslim prayers in it. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay responded by saying that she "deeply regretted" the fact that Ankara made the decision "without prior discussion."
Hagia Sophia was founded by Christian emperor Justinian and inaugurated on December 27, 537. The cathedral, considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture, was the world's largest Christian cathedral for over a thousand years. After the Ottomans captured Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. In 1934, when Turkey was already a republic, it was designated a museum and included on UNESCO's World Heritage List.