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July 10 – “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” – Hagia Sophia Was Turned into a Mosque

Αssociated Press

Muslims offer their evening prayers outside the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul s main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, following Turkey s Council of State s decision, Friday, July 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

What I predicted for days, based on the messages sent by Turkey, as well as the reaction of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, tragically became a reality.

Aghia Sophia was declared a mosque. It is being converted from a museum – with 3.7 million visitors a year – into an operational mosque. After 86 whole years.

It is a dark day. To quote Roosevelt's dramatic characterization of the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it is, for Hellenism, Christianity, every religion and every human being, “a date which will live in infamy.”

It is also a dark day for Turkey, which is taking another big step away from the secularization, modernization, and the turn to the West initiated by Kemal Ataturk. It is another turn towards Asia, to Muslim fanaticism.

In the context of international relations, it is a disgrace, a desecration of one of the most historic churches of Christianity, and a great against Hellenism.

It is a punch in the stomach of humanity. It shows a provocative indifference of the Turkish leadership to everything civilized, secular, western.

And I'm very afraid that this decision says a lot about Erdogan’s broader intentions – but I hope I am wrong about that.

This is not the first time Erdogan has ignored the norms of civilization and the values and concerns of its allies. He has done so many times, from his Iraq policies to the purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia.

But this is the first time he has turned Islam against Christianity. It is the first time he followed ‘his own way,’ instead of logic, and put his political interest above all else.

That he has the power to do this since Aghia Sophia is located in Constantinople does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that he should do so.

And it is unacceptable – to say the least – that the Pope of Rome remains silent about the fate of Aghia Sophia.

And this is not the first time. The Vatican did the same in 1453 when Sultan Mehmet II was on the verge of capturing the city, and the Byzantine Empire – what was left of it – was asking for help from the West, which did nothing.

And not only that. Catholic bishops in Turkey have sided with Erdogan, saying the decision on Aghia Sophia is an internal Turkish affair.

The Russian Patriarch did the opposite. And, fortunately, so did the U.S. government.

But Joe Biden remains inexplicably silent

Basic realism requires us to look at the decision on Aghia Sophia in the context of a general offensive strategy of Turkey against Greek and Cypriot sovereignty and other interests of Hellenism.

These escalating acts of aggression are not part of the normal ups and downs of the rivalries between nations. And they do not happen by chance – the daily violations of Greek sovereignty, the drilling, Turkey’s involvement in Libya, and now … Aghia Sophia.

For me, tolerance and appeasement is a dead end strategy for Greece.

It is time to retaliate against Turkish interests in Greece. At a minimum.