The Turkish Ministry of Defense on Sunday accused Athens of worse than hypocrisy after the Greek foreign minister tweeted that Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque was saddening, saying that mosques in Greece were being demolished or repurposed.
“A great [!] day for our national memory. Today, the conversion of Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage Site, into a mosque, as well as the vandalism on its gate, saddens every person who respects history,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias tweeted on May 29, on the 569th anniversary of İstanbul’s conquest by the Turks.
Despite international outrage, Hagia Sophia, which served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of İstanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 -– nearly half a millennium -– was converted into a mosque from a museum in July 2020 after a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned it into a museum.
In April of this year, unknown individuals damaged the “Imperial Door,” also known as the “Emperor Door,” of Hagia Sophia, its largest — seven meters high — and most splendid entry.
Following Dendias’ tweets, Turkey’s Ministry of Defense responded with five tweets.
“Conquered 569 years ago, it is delusional to look at İstanbul with the dreams of the Roman Empire or Byzantium. Those who long for 1,000 years ago clearly reveal who is expansionist and who is an obstacle to peace,” the ministry said.
“Used as a mosque for centuries, Hagia Sophia has been under the protection of the Turkish nation since 1453,” it added.
3⃣ Ayasofya için güya üzülenlerin, 1500’lü yıllardan kalan ve her biri kültürel birer miras olan Yunanistan’daki camilerin yıkılarak yerine sinema ve sergi salonu, konaklama yeri, depo yapılmasına karşı çıkmaması da iki yüzlülükle bile açıklanamayacak kadar vahim bir durumdur.
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) May 29, 2022
“The fact that those who are supposedly upset about Hagia Sophia do not oppose the demolition of mosques in Greece, each of which is a cultural heritage dating back to the 1500s, and their replacement with movie theaters, exhibition halls, accommodation and warehouses, is a grave situation that cannot be explained even by hypocrisy,” the ministry said.
For many observers, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque was an attempt to consolidate his power among Islamists.
The Turkish government has long been accused by its secular opponents of forcing Islamic values on the predominantly Muslim but strictly secular country.