Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni has been started an awareness campaign to inform foreign nations on Turkish aspirations for Hagia Sophia. In a letter sent to delegations of UNESCO member states, she wrote, “It should be understood that under no circumstances should Hagia Sophia lose its ecumenical character and become a Muslim mosque.”
The transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque would be in violation of a 1972 agreement signed by Turkey, and Ms Mendoni emphasised that monuments in Istanbul which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List should be preserved. Changing the status of Hagia Sophia would require a decision by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee which has yet to be given.
“What is being pursued today by the Turkish government and President Erdogan restores and rekindles national and religious fanaticism. The impairment of the value and global radiance of the monument is being pursued,” she wrote while also noting an attempt by Turkey to “bring the 15th century’s conditions back to the 21st century”.
The American Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, called on the Turkish government to maintain the monument’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site: