Istanbul - The ancient Byzantine basilica of Saint Sofia in Istanbul remains for the time being a museum. The Turkish Supreme Court yesterday, Thursday 13 September, rejected the request presented by the Turkish Union of historical monuments to transform it into a "house of prayer" for Muslims. According to reports from the Turkish media, the Court justified its contrary ruling by referring to errors of form contained in the text of the request.
The Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople, which took place in 1453, and then became a museum in 1935, at the behest of Mustafa Kemal Atatork, the first Turkish president and founder of modern Turkey.
The Turkish media recall that the Turkish Union of historical monuments, already in 2004, had submitted the request to open Ayasofya to Muslim prayer gatherings to the Turkish government, without receiving an answer. In 2005, the Council of State had already rejected the appeal presented by the Union to try to get its request approved.
The last few years have seen gatherings of thousands of faithful fill the vast square off the site every May to celebrate the anniversary of the Muslim conquest of the city and call for its reopening as a mosque. In 2013, the then Turkish vice-prime minister B├╝lent Ar─▒nc mentioned the imminent possibility of reopening the monumental complex of Ayasofya to the Islamic cult on several occasions. In 2014, as reported by Fides it was Saudi Imam Abdullah Basfar who led the prayer mobilization convened on May 31 of that year in front of the museum of Ayasofya to ask to reopen the monument to Islamic cult. The initiative was then promoted by the Committee for the Conquest of Constantinople - an organization founded in 1950 and supported by Anatolian Youth, a militant organization inspired by the nationalist Islamist politician Necmettin Erbakan, who died in 2011. >>