WASHINGTON, DC – Greek-American Congresswoman Dina Titus sent a letter to the Turkish Ambassador to the United States concerning the status of Aghia Sophia. On July 10, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally re-converted the UNESCO World Heritage Site into a mosque hours after a high court annulled a 1934 decision that had turned it into a museum.
Rep. Titus represents Nevada’s First District and in Congress serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, and is a member of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus. She is the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.
The text of Rep. Titus’ letter, dated July 9, follows:
Ambassador Serdar Kilic
Embassy of Turkey
2525 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
July 9, 2020
Dear Ambassador Kilic,
I write to express deep concern with the Turkish government's consideration of changing the status of the Hagia Sophia. This 1500-year old site is deeply important to people of many faiths and backgrounds, and designating it as a mosque would damage its legacy and be detrimental to Turkey's reputation and its relationships with other countries in the region and around the world.
For more than 80 years, Turkey has preserved the Hagia Sophia as a museum that is universally admired and revered. As an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hagia Sophia offers glimpses of architectural and artistic masterpieces from Ottoman and Byzantine culture that are significant to human history. As you know, the Hagia Sophia also served as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for nearly a millennium and thus holds spiritual and historical significance for Orthodox Christianity. Today it is a symbol of peaceful coexistence and respect among religions. Converting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque would isolate Christians who deeply value the site and further sow division in an already tense region.
On July 1, Secretary Pompeo issued a statement urging the Turkish government to maintain the status of Hagia Sophia m a museum. It is critical that this site remain accessible to people of all faiths and that its history is preserved. I urge the Government of Turkey to support the Hagia Sophia's preservation in a manner that respects religious pluralism and its rich history. Thank you for your attention to these concerns.
Member of Congress