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Scores of Muslim believers prayed outside the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on Friday, celebrating the Turkish court’s approval to convert the UNESCO World Heritage site back into a mosque, overturning a 1934 decision to transform it into a museum.
The believers were filmed sitting on mats outside the complex, followed by the call to prayer resonating from minarets, and the prayer. Dozens of Turkish flags were also filmed among the crowd.
UNESCO, who has been opposing the move, released a statement following the decision, expressing concerns about the impact it may have on the universal value of the site and calling on the Turkish authorities “to engage in dialogue” on the matter.
Prior to its usage as a mosque and then a museum, the structure had been a church built by the Byzantine Empire. The move to change its status again has drawn ire from the Greek government and the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I, resides in Istanbul.
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