July 14, 2020 - 18:17 AMT
Turkey to cover Hagia Sophia's Christian mosaics during prayers

Mosaics in Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia will be covered by curtains or lasers during the Muslim prayers, the spokesman for Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has said, according to Al Jazeera.

The Christian icons would be uncovered and be open to all visitors at other times, and admission would be free of charge, the AK Party's Omer Celik said on Monday, July 12, without explaining further.

A Turkish court last week ruled that the conversion of the sixth-century Byzantine site into a museum in 1934 was unlawful.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the building a mosque and said the first prayers would be held there within two weeks.

The move drew international criticism and concern, including from Greece, the United States and Russia, as well as UNESCO, which is now reviewing the structure's World Heritage Site status.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was surprised by UNESCO's reaction and would let it know of further steps to be taken regarding Hagia Sophia, which was a Byzantine church for nine centuries before the Ottomans converted it to a mosque.

The Armenian Church, meanwhile, has condemned Turkey's decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque as "a politically motivated move that will greatly damage the mutual understanding and dialogue between religions."

Photo. Reuters