Turkey to US: Hagia Sophia is our property – mind your own business

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Photo: tonkosti.ru

Turkey responded to the US State Dept report on Hagia Sophia saying that the temple is their property, and any action on it is the country's prerogative.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed disagreement to the US State Department's annual Report on International Religious Freedom of June 10, 2020, and stated that all historical sites, including Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, are the property of the Republic of Turkey, and any decisions in this direction are a matter concerning Turkey’s internal affairs. It is reported by Orthodox Times.

Commenting on the concerns of the US Department of State over Hagia Sophia, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said that the information presented in the report is unverified and subjective.

The diplomat noted that in the past 20 years, serious steps have been taken in Turkey to strengthen human rights institutions, including in the field of religious freedoms.

“Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii (Chora Monastery) are owned by Turkey, and any decision on them is a matter concerning Turkey’s internal affairs. The decisions made or will be taken are not responsibility of other countries. Turkey is aware of the importance of its cultural and religious heritage and is taking steps to carefully protect these sites,” the representative of the Foreign Ministry said.

Mr. Aksoy further said that while the effective efforts of the Turkish government to protect religious freedoms are clear, “it is a tragicomedy for the United States to try to disorientate world public opinion with its reports, as racism, anti-Semitism and opposition to Islam increase.”

The diplomat called on the United States to concentrate on protecting religious freedoms and human rights in its own territory.

For his part, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with NTV, “Hagia Sophia is not a matter of other countries. This is an issue of our national sovereignty. <...> It is strange that some people discuss to whom St. Sophia and Constantinople belong, 567 years after the Fall. On July 2, the Supreme Court will decide and we will make a decision according to our national sovereignty. We will do what our people and the court say."

As reported by the UOJ, earlier the US State Department announced that the status of an architectural monument should be reserved for Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

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