Erdoğan rebuffs international condemnation over Hagia Sophia conversion

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday rejected international condemnation over his decree to revert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia monument back into a mosque, saying it represented his country's will to use its "sovereign rights".

The Turkish head of state handed administrative control of the Hagia Sophia to Turkey’s top state religious body on Friday, after the country’s highest administrative court revoked the disputed site’s status as a museum back into a mosque.

"Those who do not take a step against Islamophobia in their own countries... attack Turkey's will to use its sovereign rights," state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdoğan as saying during the opening ceremony of a bridge he attended via video-conference.

"We made this decision not looking at what others say but looking what our right is and what our nation wants, just like what we have done in Syria, in Libya and elsewhere," the Turkish president said.

The Hagia Sophia, originally built as a cathedral of the Eastern Roman Empire in 537, was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 and then into a museum in 1935, 12 years after the founding of Turkey’s republic.

Erdoğan has repeatedly suggested in recent years turning the landmark into a mosque again to fulfil a long-standing demand by Turkey’s Islamists, much to Greece’s ire.

Many members in the international community condemned Turkey’s decision over the Hagia Sophia, expressing disappointment and regret.

On Saturday, the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate called to open a madrasah in the iconic site. Turkish media, for the most part, has welcomed the site’s conversion.