“A capitulation is essentially an operation whereby you begin to explain rather than to act,” writes Charles Péguy. On the Bosporus side, capitulation does not seem to be on the agenda: Christians in Istanbul have had the audacity to take legal action to put an end to Muslim worship in Hagia Sophia.
The information appeared in the Islamo-conservative daily in Istanbul Habertürk, on November 9, 2020: we learn that the Turkish Council of State has been seized of the French equivalent of an emergency ruling requesting the annulment of the decree of July 10, by which Muslim worship could be celebrated again in the old Justinian basilica.
At the origin of this process, a collective of Turkish Christians belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople - a religious entity separated from Rome since the Great Eastern Schism in 1054, commonly known as Orthodox.
The claimants’ lawyers rely on the fact that the new use of Hagia Sophia violates the UNESCO convention on the protection of the world cultural heritage. This stipulates that “each of the States Parties to this Convention - including Turkey - recognizes the obligation to ensure the identification, protection, conservation, presentation, and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage.”
On July 10, the Director General of Unesco, Mme. Audrey Azoulay, clarified that Hagia Sophia is a component of the historic areas of Istanbul listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This implies certain obligations for the Turkish government.
Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, Unesco’s Assistant Director General for Culture, recalled on July 11 “that it is important to avoid any implementation measure that is not previously discussed with Unesco, and which would lead to consequences on physical access, on the structure of the building, on movable property, and on the way of managing the site.”
Such measures could indeed, according to the UN body, “constitute so many violations of the rules resulting from the 1972 World Heritage Convention.” However, it is obvious that the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque comes under this type of “violation.”
Nevertheless, a Council of State wholly in the hands of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unlikely to change course. Openly hostile, for several years now, to Europe and to the West in general, the guardian of the Sublime Porte has two objectives: to give back all its place to Islam, and to ensure - albeit in an aggressive manner - that the inheritors of the Ottoman Empire rediscover the “spirit of conquest” and their rank in the world.
The recent events in northern Syria, in the Mediterranean, in Nagorno-Karabakh, and in Cyprus are the best testimony to this.