Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sofia’s status
ISTANBUL (AP) — In its more than 1,400-year existence, the majestic domed structure of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has served as the Byzantine Empire’s main cathedral, a mosque under the Ottoman Empire and a museum in modern Turkey. It attracts millions of tourists each year. The 6th-century building is now at the center of a heated debate between conservative groups who want it to be reconverted into a mosque and those who believe the World Heritage site should remain a museum. This week, Turkey’s administrative court will consider a request for it to be changed into a mosque. Analysts think President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the debate to consolidate his conservative base and distract attention from Turkey’s economic woes.