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Erdogan joins hundreds at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia for first prayers in 86 years

by Pakistan Latest News Update

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan joined hundreds of worshippers at Hagia Sophia on Friday for the primary prayers there since he declared the monument, revered by Christians and Muslims for nearly 1,500 years, a mosque as soon as once more.

Erdogan and his high ministers, sporting white facemasks as a precaution in opposition to Covid-19, knelt on blue carpets at the beginning of a ceremony which marks the return of Muslim worship to the traditional construction. The Turkish president additionally recited verses from the Holy Quran.

Earlier, crowds shaped at checkpoints across the historic coronary heart of Istanbul the place massed police maintained safety. As soon as by way of the checks, worshippers sat aside on prayer mats in secured areas outdoors the constructing in Sultanahmet Sq..

“We are ending our 86 years of longing today,” stated one man, Sait Colak, referring to the almost 9 many years since Hagia Sophia was declared a museum and ceased to be a spot of worship.

“Thanks to our president and the court decision, today we are going to have our Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia.”

Folks look ahead to the start of Friday prayers outdoors Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, for the primary time after it was as soon as once more declared a mosque after 86 years, in Istanbul, Turkey on July 24, 2020. — Reuters

A high Turkish courtroom introduced this month it had annulled Hagia Sophia’s standing as a museum. Erdogan instantly decreed that the constructing, a Christian Byzantine cathedral for 900 years earlier than being seized by Ottoman conquerors and serving as a mosque till 1934, had been transformed as soon as once more to a mosque.

A number of hundred invitees joined Erdogan for the ceremony contained in the sixth-century constructing. Some, together with his son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, could possibly be seen recording photographs of the historic event on their cellphones.

A big display screen and audio system had been arrange within the sq. to broadcast proceedings to the hundreds gathered outdoors.

As crowds grew, leaving little house for social distancing, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya stated authorities had stopped individuals coming into the world on account of considerations in regards to the unfold of the coronavirus. On Twitter, he referred to as for persistence and stated the mosque could be open for prayer till Saturday morning.

Christian icons hid

“God is greatest,” chanted individuals within the sq.. Some slept after arriving in a single day and others ate on the grass, shaded by timber from the recent solar. Some within the crowds held Turkish and Ottoman flags.

“This is a source of great pride for us, great excitement,” stated worshipper Latif Ozer, 42.

Throughout his 17-year rule, Erdogan has championed Islam and spiritual observance and backed efforts to revive Hagia Sophia’s mosque standing. He stated Muslims ought to be capable to pray there once more and raised the problem — in style with many pious AKP-voting Turks — throughout native elections final 12 months.

The conversion triggered fierce criticism from church leaders, who stated the change to solely Muslim worship risked deepening spiritual divisions. Turkey says the positioning will stay open for guests and its Christian artworks protected.

Erdogan has reshaped Turkey’s fashionable republic, established almost a century in the past by the staunchly secularist Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, lifting a ban on Muslim headscarves in public, selling spiritual schooling and taming Turkey’s highly effective army, as soon as a bastion of Ataturk’s secular values.

Inside Hagia Sophia, white curtains lined a picture of Mary and Jesus which might have confronted the worshippers. Officers have stated the Christian frescoes and glittering mosaics adorning the cavernous dome and central corridor will likely be hid throughout Muslim prayer instances, however stay on show for the remainder of the time.

On Friday morning, the inside echoed to the sound of Koranic recitations from white-robed clerics, sat on blue carpets freshly laid this week forward of the prayers.

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