Turkey’s two largest communist parties have both blasted the decision of the right-wing government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to re-convert the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a functioning mosque. The magnificent building, which dates to 537 A.D., was originally the main Christian cathedral of Constantinople (Istanbul), capital of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. In 1453, after the city was captured by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Mehmed II, it was converted into a mosque. Then in 1934, the building was secularized and turned into a museum open to all visitors regardless of faith. But at the beginning of July, the conservative Islamist government of Turkey announced that the secularization order had been rescinded again, and Hagia Sophia is a mosque once more.
In reaction, the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) said that “canceling the decision of the cabinet of 1934 also meant negating the progressive values of the bourgeois revolution of 1923 [which established the current republic in the place of the Ottoman monarchy].” The TKP sees the emphasis on religion as a cover for advances by the bourgeoisie against the Turkish working class, especially given the disastrous economic straits in which the workers find themselves due to the pandemic.
Likewise, the Turkish Labor Party, EMEP, which is also a communist party, stressed the same points. It also noted that Erdoğan’s right-wing forces lost the last municipal elections in Istanbul, adding that “Istanbul is always owned by its worker population and will remain so.”