Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad to build new Hagia Sophia Church in protest against Turkey
The replica is to be built in the Greek Orthodox-majority city of Al-Suqaylabiyah, on a piece of land donated by the militia head Al-Abdullah.
The Syrian regime, under President Bashar Al-Assad, has declared that it will build a replica of the Hagia Sophia, in opposition to the Turkish government’s reversion of the historic building from a museum into a mosque.
The construction of this Hagia Sophia Church, taking place in the central province of Hama, will be helped by Syria’s prominent ally Russia and will allegedly show the value of “peaceful dialogue” between the major faiths.
According to the Lebanese news outlet Al-Modon, the idea for the building was started by Nabeul Al-Abdullah, the leader of a pro-regime loyalist militia within the province. After obtaining the approval of the Greek Orthodox church’s metropolitan bishop in Hama, Nicolos Baalbaki, the plans were then introduced to the Russian military within Syria.
— Al Modon (@almodononline) July 27, 2020
The replica is to be built in the Greek Orthodox-majority city of Al-Suqaylabiyah, on a piece of land donated by the militia head Al-Abdullah, a Russian team within Latakia’s Hmeimim military base is allegedly already working on plans for the construction.
As per the Arabic-language newspaper Rai Al-Youm, Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov expressed that Syria is the ideal location for the Hagia Sophia replica as “unlike Turkey, it is a country that clearly shows the possibility of positive and peaceful interfaith dialogue.”
The original Hagia Sophia, based in Istanbul, was reverted into the status of a mosque after the Turkish government overturned a 1934 ruling, which converted it into a museum. The historic building was originally built as a cathedral by the Byzantine Empire before being made into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest.
It has long been debated over and many of those opposed to Turkey’s decision argue that it should have been kept as a museum or turned back into a church.
Syria’s aim to construct a replica of the historic building is seen to serve as a gesture of revenge against Turkey, against whom it is battling in the ongoing Syrian civil war. It is also a symbolic gesture by the Assad regime towards the Syrian Christian community. It has posed as being a protector of, notwithstanding having targeted churches and persecuting Syrian Christians during the civil war.
As per opposition activists who spoke to Al-Modon, Moscow’s support and assistance towards the project is a method of justifying its military presence within Syria and its backing of Al-Assad based on Russian ties to the Syrian Christian community. The activists also said that the militia head Al-Abdullah, who donated the land for the construction, aims to strengthen his relations with Russia if the Assad regime were to fall.
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