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Istanbul's Hagia Sophia holds first Friday prayers since reconversion to mosque

Is Turkey's reconversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque a politically expedient decision or part of Turkey’s growing global assertiveness?
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JULY 24: In this handout picture released by the Turkish Presidential press office, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and invited guests attend Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque during the buildings first official prayers after being reconverted into a mosque on July, 24, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Handout/Turkish Presidential Press Office/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan capped 18 years of uninterrupted Justice and Development Party rule today by fulfilling his long-cherished dream of holding Friday prayers in the Hagia Sophia, the glorious domed edifice built by the Byzantines as a cathedral in the sixth century. Today’s ceremony followed the Hagia Sophia's formal conversion from a museum to a full-service mosque July 10. Thousands of faithful brandishing Turkish flags and chanting "God is Great" streamed from across the country to celebrate the historic reversal of the Hagia Sophia’s status.

Most were unable to enter the Hagia Sophia because of strict social distancing rules within the building to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They observed the events on a giant screen erected in the large square in the heart of old Istanbul, where the newly minted mosque sits.

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