500 Police Officers to Guard Hagia Sophia Promises Erdogan
At least 500 security force officers will be instructed to guard Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s iconic monument recently converted into a mosque, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara Monday.
"We declared that Ayasofya [Hagia Sophia’s official name] would be open 24 hours a day. Its security will be ensured by a service of 500 people. I am grateful to the [Turkish] interior minister," the leader noted.
According to Erdogan, Hagia Sophia's opening for prayers "symbolizes a resurrection of the [Turkish] nation."
On July 10, the Turkish Council of State invalidated Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s 1934 decree that had bestowed Hagia Sophia with its museum status. Later in the day, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an order declaring Hagia Sophia open for Muslim worship. Local Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, voiced their regret over the decision, along with UNESCO.
Hagia Sophia is a Byzantine-era architectural monument. The cathedral was constructed between 532 and 537 AD by a decree from then Emperor Justinian I of Byzantium. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. In 1935, following the decree of the Turkish government signed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, the building was opened as a museum. White plaster covering Christian mosaics and murals was removed. In 1985, the building was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. / tass.com
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