Church bells rang all over Greece on Friday as a sign of mourning for the first Islamic prayers at Istanbul’s famous Hagia Sophia, which had recently been re-converted into a mosque. In some places the flags were lowered half-mast.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Micotakis in Friday’s communiqué called Turkey a “troublemaker” and the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque – “an insult to 21st century civilization”. He stressed that this was another event that had a negative impact on relations between Greece and Turkey, which had been very tense for years anyway.
“What is happening in Constantinople today is not a demonstration of strength, but evidence of weakness,” Micotakis said, using the historical name for Istanbul, appropriate centuries ago by the Greeks.
Several thousand Muslims took part in Friday prayers
Several thousand Muslims participated in Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia, the first in almost 90 years, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s highest administrative court annulled the museum status of a famous monument on July 10. On the same day, Erdogan signed a decree that formally makes Hagia Sophia a mosque. The building was a Byzantine basilica for over 900 years, and after the city was taken over by the Ottomans, it served almost 500 years as a mosque until 1934.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / KOSTAS TSIRONIS