10th July 2020, a Turkish Court order approved Hagia Sophia’s convertion from a museum to an operational mosque.
For many Christians around the world, aborting a historical monument that represented the centuries of Byzantine Eastern Orthodox with Ottoman faith-inspired culture in the region, to having it reclaimed as a faith space for Islam, is a vilifying act of disrespect. The region has been affected by territorial tensions for millenia and many in the Balkan and Western Asia Minor, have experienced relocations, marginalisation, faith based extradition, torture and incarceration.
It is a non surprise western Turkey struggles with their record on human rights abuses, and corruption has been developmental to the Greek economy even in modern times.
Looking past the historicity of the region, and the unsettled air Erdoğan’s latest move has created, I can attest to the following:
– Erdoğan has three years left before the next election.
– The Hagia Sofia move was his check mate to Europe beyond the Greco-Turkish spats.
– Erdoğan doesn’t want to join EU (and all the monitoring and regulations), the EU will not have Turkey as it is today, but to make sure they don’t interfere, he needed to growl over his territory.
– Putin will turn a blind eye, despite Russia’s Orthodox Church affinity. Faith is only useful when it serves one’s interests by masking transparency. Christian links to the European church history are problematic for Putin’s and Erdoğan’s dark and underhanded populist and divisionary operations.
– Unmonitored, anyone challenging Erdoğan like the Kemalists, will end up in jail or dissappear.
– Turks in Turkey, Germany and the UK love Erdoğan. He took power and water to the favelas. He is making profits from the Syrian refugees that have no labour rights but plenty of will to do whatever yet not get paid or paid scraps of peanuts when they do (a 10th of the Turkish labour rates according to reports).
Noone wants drama on their doorstep. Turning adversity to positive stories is a way for populist governments to get away with the uttermost abuse of human rights.
Minorities and culture are the capital nasty regimes use for political coercion.
Coercion to domestic opposition, and coercion in international relations contexts.
Threatening securities makes vulnerable populations anxious and puts actor resources at high risk and alert. This costs actors money and make populations more predatory between them. Double win.
Hagia Sophia is the starting line of an incredibly narcissistic performance we will expect to see from Erdoğan in the next three years.
I can only hope there will be limited loss and blood lost in the process, but not set on having any hopes at this point.
In the middle of a pandemic, reclaiming a museum to a faith institution is a bold move.
To be continued…
AEK is building a new stadium in Nea Filadelphia, Athens, Greece.
The ‘Athlitiki Enosh Konstantinoupolis’ will have a new home in its original site soon.
Their old home was demolished, like many of the Asia Minor dwellings in its neighbourhood, following the earthquake that rattled Athens, in September 1999.
For nearly twenty years, the athletic club trained in grounds borrowed by other clubs, steadily declining in performance, getting in debt, and dropping to second division.
AEK has a passionate following, mainly Greek Asia Minor refugees that were moved in stone build dwellings in Nea Philadelphia following the exchange of the population with Turkey, in the 1920’s. They were settled as refugees, in a town modeled in the minor asian counterpart’s design and the stadium was donated as a training ground for the Greek refugees.
The plans for the new stadium changed and shaped over the past two decades, often being put on hold due to the scale of the proposals, the lack of investment, the infrastructure of the local area and the architectural tone of the neighbourhood, much of which was rebuild and repaired in the traditional architectural tone of the area, as it was before the earthquake.
Fans every year gathered on the old grounds, for ceremonies in honor of their club. You would see them putting a Christmas tree on the grounds that the old stadium once stood.
In 2017, after faithfully waiting for this to happen, the ground was once blessed again, in traditional style of priest incense and teargas. The AEK fans are not modest in the ways they show their devotion and support for their club.
The blessing of the AEK building works.
On a daily basis faithful observers gather and watch on as each kg of cement is poured.
The launch of the Agia Sophia stadium is expected in 18 months. The celebration will be unforgettable, to say the least!