73% of Turks favor the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque
by Marian Demir

An Areda Survey of a total 2500 respondents reveals 22.4% are against and 4.3% say they don't know. On the domestic front, the government's control and repression policy is strengthened. A law has been approved that expands the powers of neighborhood policeman. Erdogan fears the drop in consensus.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - 73% of Turkish citizens are in favor of transforming Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a place for Muslim worship and prayer. Originally a basilica, it was later transformed into a mosque and is now a museum according to the will of Kemal Ataturk.

The recently published survey is nourishing the controversy around the building, already at the center of a fierce debate last week after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had endorsed the recitation of an Islamic prayer inside.

According to an investigation conducted by Areda Survey and published on 11 June, 73.3% of respondents on a sample of 2414 people answered affirmatively to the question: "Should Hagia Sophia be converted into a mosque and open to worship?”. 22.4% answered "no" and only 4.3% said they did not have a precise opinion on the matter.

As an example to follow for Hagia Sophia, the exponents of the nationalist and radical Islamic faction - including Erdogan himself, who is following this fundamentalist wave to maintain power - recall the cases of the Akdamar church and the monastery of Sümela. These two places of worship, originally Christian, were first transformed into a museum but today are full-fledged mosques.

It should also be added that the current government, led by the majority party Akp, has also granted other religions the opportunity to pray in buildings that had long been forbidden to worship and used as museums or places of culture. These include the Armenian church of Surp Giragos in Diyarbakır, the great synagogue of Edirne and the monastery of Aho in Gercüş. For the first time this year, Jews from Turkey celebrated Hanukkah (the festival of lights) in a public way.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the control policy desired by the government and by Erdogan himself is strengthening, decreasing consensus for the management of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic and social crisis that the virus has triggered and fed. The new wave of repression follows the approval by Parliament of a controversial law that strengthens the duties of the "neighborhood policeman", a parallel force made up of about 28 thousand people. Thanks to the new standard they can inspect passers-by and their vehicles, verify identities and, if necessary, use their weapons.

Another law currently being approved provides for the obligation for internet users to have an identification number to access social networks and messaging programs; an additional weapon to counter dissent and online criticism. This obsession with control represents the last frontier for the Turkish president, in an attempt to strengthen the grip on the country. And this happens for an electoral reason: according to the latest polls, in fact, Erdogan and his party seem to have lost consensus, votes and popular power over the nation.