News Alerts

27 Jul 2020 | 11:58 PM UTC

Turkey: Security personnel to be stationed at Hagia Sophia July 27 /update 2

Turkey News Alert

Turkish authorities to station hundreds of security personnel at Hagia Sophia July 27; monitor situation

TIMEFRAME expected from 7/28/2020, 12:00 AM until 8/31/2020, 11:59 PM (Europe/Istanbul). COUNTRY/REGION Turkey, Istanbul

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Event

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, July 27, announced that some 500 security personnel will be stationed at the Hagia Sophia building amid recent unrest over his decision to convert it from a museum back to a mosque. Erdogan has attempted to soothe protests with promises that Hagia Sophia would be open to the general public, not exclusively to Muslims. The conversion has been heavily condemned by the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches as well as multiple EU and other foreign governments.   

On Friday, July 24, Turkish authorities reportedly closed monuments commemorating the country's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, preventing non-governmental organizations from holding events celebrating the 97th anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty, which defined Turkey's modern borders. The move came on the day that the Hagia Sophia reopened as a mosque. Atatürk's burial place, Anıtkabir, was reportedly barricaded by Ankara police, on the grounds of needing disinfection. Organizations had also intended to lay wreaths at monuments in Turkey's 81 provinces, but these ceremonies were canceled by local authorities, who cited social distancing requirements.

The decision to close monuments to Atatürk, an important figure to Turkey's secular community, combined with the reopening of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, may provoke protests throughout Turkey over the near term.

Context

President Erdogan announced on July 10 that Hagia Sophia had been officially re-designated as a mosque following a court ruling. The decision, which followed years of campaigning by conservative Muslim groups, met with widespread criticism from church leaders. However, Erdogan has insisted that the 1500-year-old Byzantine cathedral, which was turned into a mosque under the Ottoman Empire before being designated a museum in 1934, should be open for Muslim worship.

Advice

Those in Istanbul are advised to avoid Hagia Sophia and the Cagaloglu area on Friday due to the anticipated travel disruptions and risk of protests. Those throughout Turkey should avoid protests, monitor developments, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.

 

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