Turkish president denounces criticism over changing Hagia Sophia into mosque

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday denounced the rising international criticism over Turkey’s intention to covert Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque.

“The accusations against our country on the Hagia Sophia mean a direct attack on our sovereignty rights,” Erdogan said at the opening ceremony of another mosque in Istanbul.

“We will continue to protect the rights of Muslims, the dominant faith in our country, and those of other religions,” he added.

The Turkish government’s plan has been drawing reactions of several countries, including Greece and the United States, which have been urging Turkey to keep the museum status of the historic monument.

The Turkish State Council on Thursday said it would announce the verdict about the fate of the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia within 15 days.

The monument, which first served as a cathedral and later an Ottoman imperial mosque, was transformed into a museum in 1935.