A strong request from the archaeologists for the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a museum.
The famous "Hagia Sofia", the church which marks the Orthodox faith worldwide, a symbol of culture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is under "threat" to be turned into a mosque, according to the announcements of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, for this to happen, it should have the approval of UNESCO, as is the case with every monument bearing this definition.
Yet, the Church, that until now is characterized as a "museum" has stopped operating as such since 2013. The Association of Greek Archaeologists stresses in an announcement that in any case, the Hagia Sophia is a monument of Turkish history and culture and a Byzantine monument of the Pontus, of great beauty and historical value, decorated with unique mosaics - murals that require continuous maintenance. The church was inaugurated in AD 360 and was rebuilt anew many times during multiple attempts made for its recovery from fires, natural disasters, and vandalisms. Throughout the Byzantine Empire, it was the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, while during the Crusades (1204 - 1261) it became a Roman Catholic and an Orthodox church, and in 1453 it was converted into a mosque. Since 1934, by order of Mustafa Kemal and in the context of Turkey's modernization, the church was converted into a museum and remained as such until 2013.
The announcements of the President of Turkey alarm archaeologists who see the limited access of visitors to Hagia Sophia as a means to block their ability to understand the significance of the monument and to enjoy it, while they fear that the removal of its use as a museum will further damage its image and reduce its artistic value. According to the announcement of the Association "... each country should offer universal access to the cultural goods and the monuments of its territory." Let us hope that the opinion of people who agree with that of Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı will prevail, who had stated that "Turkey should be proud for the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a museum because this shows respect towards foreign culture."