Hagia Sophia converted into mosque, Erdoğan signs decree

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the Hagia Sophia museum, one of Istanbul's most famous landmarks, to be converted into a mosque and minutes later, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree to formally declare it a mosque.

Erdoğan made the announcement hours after a top court cleared the way for him to make the change.

Turkey's top administrative court had earlier on Friday, July, 10 annulled the museum status of the world-famous cultural site.

The decision said the site is listed as a mosque in its title deed and that cannot be changed, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported
Shortly after the move, the first call to prayer was recited at the Hagia Sophia and was broadcast on all of Turkey's main news channels. The cultural site's social media channels have now been taken down. 

The Hagia Sofia, a major draw for tourists with long and complicated history was built 1,500 years-ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, centuries later the Ottomans made Hagia Sophia a mosque.

The architectural marvel was built as a church by the Byzantines in the 6th century and then converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

In 1934, Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's cabinet decreed that it be turned into a museum. It is widely regarded as a symbol of peaceful religious coexistence and is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Islamists in Turkey have long called for it to be converted to a mosque, but secular opposition members have opposed the move. The proposal has prompted criticism from religious and political leaders worldwide.

In recent years, the Turkish government has "allowed Quran readings there on special occasions," Anadolu reported.

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