Law Professor Argues That The Re-Designation Of Hagia Sofia As A Mosque Is A Violation Of International Human Rights Laws

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Law Professor Argues That The Re-Designation Of Hagia Sofia As A Mosque Is A Violation Of International Human Rights Laws

A senior professor at the University of Athens Law School, Spyros Vlachopoulos, has published a letter in the Greek newspaper E Kathimerini stating that the recent decision by the Turkish regime to turn the Hagia Sophia site into a mosque is in violation of international human rights laws.


In the letter, published on the 21st of July 2020, he outlines the legal basis for this opposition and states that Europe must do more to combat the diminishment of culture under the current Turkish state.


The Hagia Sofia church was built in the year 537 as a Greek Orthodox church and remained that way until it was transformed into a mosque under the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s. Since the 1920s, it has served as a UNESCO world heritage site without religious dominance by either the Christian or Islamic faith. Earlier this year however it was determined by the current Turkish regime under Recep Erdogan that the world heritage site should be converted back into a mosque. This is seen as an attempt by the regime to gain support among Erdogan's ultra-conservative base. The move has been highly criticised by Greece, the US and Russia.


Professor Vlachopoulos argues that these moves by the Turkish state violates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which forbids the revoking of the status of museum without the consent of the private organisation UNESCO, who manages the site, opposes the moves by Turkey. He claims this is in contravention of Article 8 of the ECHR, which protects "private life", meaning that the building and its managers have the right to choose its designation.


The professor also believes that the move violates the rights of the Christian minority within Turkey who are losing a site of historical significance. He says:


"It must be noted, however, that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque constitutes an opportunity for the ECHR to reconsider its precedent (in fact the case also raises questions regarding the rights of the Christian minority in Turkey)."


He went on to call upon the ECHR to act far more firmly when confronted with such issues, deploring their weakness in the face of threat:


"Mainly, however, the ECHR cannot cower when faced with an offense on sites of cultural heritage if it wants to retain its image within the EU as a guardian of human rights. Because even if it is true that fundamental human rights seek, first and foremost, the protection of the weak and minorities, sometimes they must also safeguard the rights of the majority, especially the right of generations to come to unobstructed access to sites of global cultural heritage."


The argument over the designation of the Hagia Sofia is bound to continue long into the future, and only adds to the ongoing tension between Greece and Turkey.

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Thinking Humanity: Law Professor Argues That The Re-Designation Of Hagia Sofia As A Mosque Is A Violation Of International Human Rights Laws
Law Professor Argues That The Re-Designation Of Hagia Sofia As A Mosque Is A Violation Of International Human Rights Laws
A senior professor at the University of Athens Law School, Spyros Vlachopoulos, has published a letter in the Greek newspaper E Kathimerini stating that the recent decision by the Turkish regime to turn the Hagia Sophia site into a mosque is in violation of international human rights laws. In the letter, published on the 21st of July 2020, he outlines the legal basis for this opposition and states that Europe must do more to combat the diminishment of culture under the current Turkish state. The Hagia Sofia church was built in the year 537 as a Greek Orthodox church and remained that way until it was transformed into a mosque under the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s.
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