UN Human Rights Council Stress The Importance Of Hagia Sophia Remaining A 'Space For Meeting Of Cultures'

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UN Human Rights Council Stress The Importance Of Hagia Sophia Remaining A 'Space For Meeting Of Cultures'

Experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council have spoken out against the move by Erdogan's Turkey to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. The experts are not under the control of any government, nor are they paid for any of their work, leaving them entirely impartial.


The debate surrounding the Hagia Sophia building has been raging since earlier this year when the Turkish government decided to change the UNESCO world heritage site into a place solely for Islamic worship.


Since the 1930s, the building has been a place for all religions. Built in 537 as an Orthodox Christian temple by the Emperor Justinian, the site was one of the holiest places for Orthodox Christianity until the takeover of Turkey by Ottoman forces who converted the church into a mosque in the 1500s.


The overturning of the multi-religious aspect of the building by Turkey is seen by some as a potential cause of conflict between Turkey and Christians.


Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur for cultural rights and part of the expert human rights group said:


"It would be an historic mistake at this difficult global moment to take actions which divide religious and cultural groups in Turkey and beyond, rather than uniting them."


It has been often quoted since the 1930s that the dome of the Hagia Sophia is big enough for all faiths.


A statement by the experts went on to explain their concerns. It reads:


"We share UNESCO's concern that the transformation of a site of outstanding universal value requires prior notice and consultation with all stakeholders to ensure that the human rights of all are respected. The Hagia Sophia is Turkey's most visited attraction, and is a monument of global importance."


It also explained its fear of religious friction caused by the move both internationally and in Turkey itself. The statement continued:


"In light of such developments, the experts fear that the change of status of the Hagia Sophia to a monolithic site could reflect a supremacist view of history… We are gravely concerned about the rights of everyone to access and enjoy cultural heritage, about inter-faith co-existence and secular spaces, and about the equality and safety of religious minorities, including Christians."


The panel also encouraged dialogue between those who support the continuation of the building as a multi-religious museum and those that support the Turkish moves. It said:


"We encourage the Turkish Government to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders. This is essential to guarantee that the Hagia Sophia continues to be a space for the enjoyment of cultural rights by all, reflecting its diverse Christian, Muslim and secular heritages, and that it continues to be a symbol which brings all people in Turkey together."


Russia, the US and Greece in particular, have all spoken out against the change of designation of the Hagia Sophia though it currently looks like Erdogan is unlikely to back down as he plays to his ultra-conservative Islamic base.

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Thinking Humanity: UN Human Rights Council Stress The Importance Of Hagia Sophia Remaining A 'Space For Meeting Of Cultures'
UN Human Rights Council Stress The Importance Of Hagia Sophia Remaining A 'Space For Meeting Of Cultures'
Experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council have spoken out against the move by Erdogan's Turkey to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. The experts are not under the control of any government, nor are they paid for any of their work, leaving them entirely impartial. The debate surrounding the Hagia Sophia building has been raging since earlier this year when the Turkish government decided to change the UNESCO world heritage site into a place solely for Islamic worship.
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