Following a Turkish court's order that said it has revoked the sixth-century World Heritage site, Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree converting it into a mosque, BBC reported.
The Unesco world heritage site, Hagia Sophia, was first a cathedral and then turned into a mosque during the 15th century.
It became a museum in 1934 under Turkey’s secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as per a report in The Independent and since then, it has been one of the most treasured tourist spots and cultural sites for the international travel community - both Muslims and Christians alike - attracting more than 3.7 million visitors a year.
This is the second time when it will be opened for Muslim prayers after around 90 years.
Erdogan, while sharing a copy of the decree on Twitter, wrote “Hayirli olsun,’’ which means “Congratulations.”
Following Turkey's decision, the UN's cultural agency UNESCO has warned the country's government against converting the Byzantine-era museum into a mosque, urging dialogue before any decision is taken, AFP reported.
According to BBC, shortly after the announcement, the first call to prayer was recited at the Hagia Sophia and was broadcast on all of Turkey's main news channels.
"The cultural site's social media channels have now been taken down," said the report.
Meanwhile, a small crowd gathered outside the architectural marvel with some of them chanting “Allahu akbar” or “God is great,” reported the New York Times.
Many people across the world including the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church have condemned Turkey's new move. Some also took to twitter to register their protest:
I strongly denounce #Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. I urge Erdogan to reverse course and restore Hagia Sophia’s remarkable legacy as a museum for people of all faiths and cultures to visit. https://t.co/AUfDgGP9f4— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) July 10, 2020
#BREAKING: The rigged #Turkish courts have cleared the way for @RTErdogan to turn the iconic #HagiaSophia museum into a mosque. With each passing day, #Istanbul looks more like #Tehran. The revolution just keeps rolling along.https://t.co/yfuYQjDQwY— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) July 10, 2020
Turkey has decided to convert the most emblematic, monumental Christian Church of #HagiaSophia, built in 537 AD by Justinian, into a mosque. It was the world's largest building and an engineering marvel of its time.— Andreas Stalidis (@a_stalidis) July 10, 2020
A #DISGRACEFUL decision by #Turkey. Shame on you. pic.twitter.com/4yVv8pzMpC
(With inputs from BBC, The New York Times, The Independent & AFP)
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