Bulgaria: We will discuss the Hagia Sophia issue after UNESCO’s decision, says Donchev

Bulgaria: We will discuss the Hagia Sophia issue after UNESCO’s decision, says Donchev

A change in the status of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has commenced, as it is now back on track to become a functioning mosque, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev said, adding that the decision is expected in two weeks while taking the floor at Friday’s Parliamentary Audit.

“The Association of Ancient Monuments and the Environment has asked the Turkish Supreme Court to investigate whether Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s signature on the 1934 decree transforming Hagia Sophia into a museum was authentic or fake. This is not the first time this request has been filed. Such a request has been made several times so far. Until now, all appeals have been rejected by the Supreme Court”, Donchev told lawmakers.

After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the Christian church of Hagia Sophia in what was then Istanbul became a mosque, but almost 500 years later Ataturk turned the building into a functioning museum. However, that is about to change for President Erdogan, who wants to restore it to the status of a functioning Muslim church.

The building is listed as a UNESCO monument and is protected under the World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention, which was approved in 1972 and signed by 193 countries.

“Supposedly, if the status of the cultural site is to be reconsidered, this issue should be discussed at a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Only then would the Bulgarian side have a reason to react. We have not reached that process and this stage just yet”, said Tomislav Donchev.

On May 29, a surah from the Koran was recited in Hagia Sophia in memory of the Fall of Constantinople. According to BSP MP Ivo Hristov, who also initiated today’s debate in the Bulgarian parliament, the date was not randomly chosen. “On May 29, 1453, Constantinople came under Ottoman rule. That is why reciting the Koran on this day in the temple, which has been a museum since 1934, is probably not accidental”, he reminded his colleagues.

Only Athens voiced an official reaction to the issue, with the authorities stating that such an action “provokes the religious feelings of Christians around the world”. /ibna