By Prof. Taner Akçam
Basically, the whole Hagia Sophia affair can be summed up with the phrases “improper” or “a shame.” But I think that the audience whom I am addressing do not possesses the cultural delicacy to find these words meaningful. For their sakes, it would better to formulate it in a frank manner that they could more easily understand: the deed that is being performed in regard to Hagia Sophia is a clear show of barbarism.
It is a declaration of a “Turkish lack of culture and destructiveness” to the entire world. And the pairing of President and AK Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli is the political alliance through which this lack of culture and destructiveness has been made manifest.
“But, why?” you may ask.
Because with this step it’s being said to the world that “Even though we live in the 21st century, our mentality is still that of 1453. Even now, in the 21st century, we are utterly unconcerned with preserving the cultural heritage of humanity. Among us, there’s no sense of a greater cultural inheritance beyond that which was left to us; we have nothing to contribute to humanity’s cultural treasures. We are unable to create any new cultural value ourselves. We seize the cultural treasures of humanity, we break them and/or we destroy them.”
This is what’s being done. Here, now, in the 21st century, the Hagia Sophia, one of the most significant monuments of human culture will again be “conquered” and turned into a mosque, just like in 1453.