In 1934, Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk decreed that the Hagia Sophia should be a museum, as part of his drive for secularization. But some Turkish Muslims question the validity of that decree.
Erdogan, who has favored Islamic claims in Turkey, will visit the Hagia Sophia—a building that was originally a Christian church—on the day when the Christian world observes Good Friday.
The President will pray together with members of his party and the religious leaders in Istanbul. The event falls two days before the referendum, to garner the Muslim vote. Transformation of the ancient Christian basilica into a museum rejected. Erdogan: Kemalism is dead.
Thus Erdogan, nicknamed the “new sultan” for his political extremism, will seek to channel Muslim faithful in favor of a Yes ( “Evet”) vote. According to the Muslim calendar the month to April (Nisan) is the month of the birth of Mohammed.
The news is carried in pro-government newspapers, presenting the latest book by Turk historian Mustafa Armagan – titled “The Saint Sophia intrigue” (Aya Sofia Entrikalari). In doing so they seek to create and prepare the climate for the prayer, as the will of the Turkish president. The book argues that the decree signed by Kemal Ataturk in 1934 which turned the Hagia Sophia from mosque into a museum, is not authentic. According to Armagan, the Kemal Ataturk signature on the decree is false. Therefore the act has no legal value and therefore Santa Sofia can in fact be used as a mosque, as was the case after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Hagia Sophia it was built in 537 by Emperor Justinian and dedicated to God’s Wisdom. To justify his remarks, the Turkish historian reports that the Kemal Aturk signature on the 1934 Decree is unlike any other signature penned by the Father of Republic in prori acts.
Various sources are cited in the book which claims, according to the author, that the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a museum, was the result of pressure from various Western international forces, headed by the then US Ambassador Joseph Grew.
Mustafa Armagan also notes the news that Kemal Ataturk had visited St. Sophia in 1935, three months after its proclamation as a museum, was not reported in any Turkish newspaper of the period, but only by the Greek language journal, Apogevmatini, published on February 7, 1935, in Istanbul. The author recalls, in that same period, the strong reaction of the Egyptian newspaper “El Risale “, strongly opposed to the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a museum.
In this way the pre-referendum climate is becoming increasingly tense and polarized. On the other hand, the climate has been fostered and created by Erdogan himself with his recent statements against the Kemalist period, when he proclaimed: “That period, which began in 1923, is about to end. And that’s that”. And that is, woe to the vanquished.