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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE Ministers Committee Head calls to Save UNESCO World Heritage Sainte Sophie from change to Mosque

CoE Ministers Committee Head calls to Save UNESCO World Heritage Sainte Sophie from change to Mosque

Written by ACM
Friday, 26 June 2020

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*Strasbourg/Angelo Marcopolo/- PanEuropean, 47 Member States-strong (Russia included) CoE's President,  Alt. Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis, launched a vibrant Call to Save UNESCO World Heritage Monument, the Historic, Over-Millenary Church of Sainte Sophie (alias "Agia Sophia"), currently a very popular Museum, from Recent Threats by the Turkish Government, including President Erdogan,  to turn it into a Mosque...  

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He was Replying to various MEPs' Questions, (including one from Turkey, on "Freedom of Religion"), at the Standing Committee of CoE's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), where he has served for a Long Time as former MEP, and Recently Elected vice-President of its Biggest Political Group, that of ChristianDemocrats/EPP.

agia_sophia_hrt__eurofora_patchwork_400 

- Currently, "there is a Great Concern for us, (Europe), and a Great Concern for the Global Community, ... about the Attempt to use Agia Sophia as a Mosque", he Denounced.

agia_sophia_maimed_roof_wikipedia__eurofora_patchwork_400 

- This goes, "particularly, within the framework of UNESCO", and includes a move "Not to Preserve its (Sainte Sophie's) Global Position as a World Heritage Monument", Varvitsiotis Warned.

 

agia_sophia_mary__christ_infant_400 

- However, currently, "that Symbolizes a Great Monument, Both for ...Christianity", (particularly "Orthodox", but Not Only: See Infra - During More than 1,5 Millenary, or about 1.700 Years, since the Initial Creation of that Church on 360, throughout the Christian-Greek Byzantine Empire's Civilisation), "and the Turkish Muslims, Since they started their Presence (sic !) in Istanbul/Constantinople", as he said, (i.e. During about 550 Years, Since the 1.453 Bloody Turkish Military Invasion and Occupation of Constantinople).

                                                                                     

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=> "So, it's very Important to SaveGuard such Monuments, and give them to the World Heritage", CoE's President-in-office Urged.
 

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- And this, Also, "as an humble Example of InterCultural coordination", he Modestly Added.


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In Fact, notoriously, Greek Byzantines Build that Monument with its Famous Huge Dome, Full of Light and Icons, (Near an Ancient Temple of Apollon), and Turks Surrounded it by some Minarets Outside, added a few Graves or Symbols of Conquest, and Systematicaly Erased or Covered up Icons.

agia_sophia_christ__mary__prodromos__dehsis_maimed_400 

- Varvitsiotis, Earlier, had Warned that he would Not be Free to Answer MEPs' Questions "as a Foreign Minister of Greece", (that he was), since he had Now to "speak as a President of CoE's Committee of Ministers", according to its rules and procedures. (What he really did, Also, just Before the Religious Freedom Question, by Answering, with a very ..."Technical" and Neutral Language, anOther Question, Raised by the President of the EuroLeft Group of MEPs, Dutch Senator Tiny Cox, about 2 Dissident Politicians' Freedom of Expression Violations in Turkey, as found by ECHR, where they had been Prosecuted, Destituted, Condemned and Jailed, for some Simple Critical, but Peaceful Declarations)...

=> To the point that, PACE's New President, Liberal Belgian Senator, Rik Daems, smiling, then, Suggested that "CoE's Assembly should Vote for a New Additional Protocol to the ECHR, Protecting the Freedom of Expression of CoE's Committee of Ministers' President !"...

pace_head_suggests_echr_protocol_to_give_to_ctee_of_ministers_president_right_to_speek_freely_varvi_eurofora_screenshot_400 

-----------------------------

+ Meanwhile, however, even USA's Ambassador at large for Religious Freedom, former Long-Time Senator Sam Brownback, (Appointed by US President Don Trump), Published at the Internet a Written Statement on "the Hagia Sophia", stressing that it "Holds Enormous Spiritual and Cultural Significance".

sam_brownback_on_agia_sophia_400 

>>> Therefore, "we (USA) Call on the Government of Turkey to Maintain it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and to Maintain the Accessibility to All, in its current Status as a Museum".

Sainte Sophie has been Officially Declared as a "Museum" Already Since 1934, (i.e. During almost 87 Years now).

It Attracts "almost 3,4 Millions of Visitors, Annually", (according to "Wikipedia").

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- And it affects "Billions of Believers, of Different Faiths, around the World", wrote Today USA's Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, (Comp. Supra).

------------------------

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+ But, Meanwhile, a Russian MEP had formaly Raised a Question to Erdogan, at CoE's Assembly in Strasbourg, as early as since 2006, about whether the alleged Respect of Religious Freedom in Turkey would Allow for Christian People to become anew able to Celebrate the Divine Mass in Sainte Sophie Cathedral, as they used to do during Millenaries...

++ Already, the International Treaty of Sevres (1920), whose Centenary Anniversary is due to be Commemorated this August 2020, Drafted and Signed by the Winners of the 1st World War and Many Other Countries, had Explicitly Subordinated All "the Rights of the Turkish Government over Constantinople", to the "Faithfull Observation of the Provisions ... as regards the Protection of the Rights to Racial, Religious or Linguistic Minorities" :

saint_sophie_constantinople_eurofora_patchworkreconstruction_400 

=> "In the event of Turkey Failing to" do so, "the Allied Powers expressely reserve(d) the right to Modify the ... provisions, and Turkey hereby agree(d) to accept Any Dispositions which May be Taken" (on Constantinople's fate) !

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-----------------------

- But, on the Contrary, inter alia, f.ex., when Christian Catholic Pope Benedict on 2005, Followed by German Chancellor Angie Merkel, Later-on, made Official Visits to Turkey, Visiting also Constantinople and Sainte Sophie, various Press Articles and Politicians' Statements had Created an UnForgetable Atmosphere of ...Terror, threatening with "Warnings" on "the Consequences" that Risked to have Any Move which Might be Interpreted as a ...Christian Religious "Prayer" inside Agia Sophia Cathedral...

=> Pope Benedict bypassed that with an open Gesture, which could be Interpreted as a Joint Prayer, inside the Neighbouring "Blue Mosque", while Chancellor Merkel Artfuly used a remarked Long and Deep Look Up towards the Sky, at Agia Sophia, while Crossing Hands, which might be Interpreted, by outward observers, in various ways...

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- However, "in 2015, in Retaliation for the Acknowledgment, by (Christian Catholic) Pope Francis, of the Armenian Genocide, the Mufti of Ankara, Mefail Hızlı, (reportedly) stated that ...the Conversion of Hagia Sophia into a Mosque will be Accelerated".     

=> In Consequence, "On 1 July 2016, Muslim Prayers were (Openly) held again in the Hagia Sophia for the First time in 85 Years", according to "Wikipedia". "On November" 2016, a "Turkish NGO ... filed a Lawsuit for Converting the Museum into a Mosque", (which was Stoped at a Court). "On 13 May 2017, a Large Group o People, ... in front of Hagia Sophia ...Prayed ...with a Call for the Reconversion ...into a Mosque". "On 21 June 2017, the (State-Controlled) Direction of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) organized ...the Recitation of the Quran and Prayers in Hagia Sofia", "Broadcast live by State-run Television TRT". "On 31 March 2018 Turkish president ...Erdoğan recited the 1st Verse of the Quran in the Hagia Sophia, dedicating the Prayer ...Especially (to) Istanbul's Conqueror" (sic !). "In March 2019 Erdoğan said that he will Change the status of Hagia Sophia, from a Museum to a Mosque,[69] adding that it was a "very big Mistake" to turn it into a Museum".    He says that it's "a Demand of the Turkish People", and that he'd "Wait until the (Local) Elections' End". In 2020, Turkey's Government is set to celebrate the 567th Anniversary of the Ottoman Conquest of Istanbul, with an Islamic Prayer in Hagia Sophia"  ...as part of conquest festival," Turkish president ...Erdoğan said. In May 2020, during the Anniversary events, passages from the Quran was read in the Hagia Sophia. In June, 2020 the head of the Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) said that "we would be very happy to Open Hagia Sophia for Worship", and ..."we will provide our Religious Services, as we do in all our Mosques”.

But, meanwhile, the Opposition Party CHP, which Won the Latest Elections at Istanbul/Constantinople is, reportedly, Against that, and its MPs Prefer for Agia Sophia to Remain a Museum...

So that, (withOut Illusions), the New Mayor of Istanbul/Constantinople, Imamoglou, had, apparently, made a quite Better Impression, Recently in Strasbourg, when he had been Heard by CoE's CLRAE.

It's true that Both Istanbul/Constantinople and Smyrne/Izmir Regions, are very Often Opposed, Socio-Politically, to the Rest of Turkey, in Most Elections, during Many Years, to the point that they have routinely Become Familiar, Distinct Opposition "Hotspots" in the Political MAPs formed After National or Regional/Local Elections...

It's Always them, at the West, and the Kurdish Regions, at the East, which are Distinguished from the Rest.

GeoPolitically, mutatis-mutandis, it really looks almost Like the International Sevres' Treaty MAP, (which had Notoriously preserved "Special" Status for Both these Regions) !

Naturally, this does Not Necessarily Mean that Imamoglou, and/or Someone Else around Istanbul/Constantinople, might have Already Become somewhat Similar to the Spanish "Autonomist" MEP Puigdemon, from Catalonia's Barcelona...

-  However, it's also true that, in Paris, still exists, (Between Elysee Palace and Saint Lazare Railway Station), a landmark, Historic "Europe Square",  surrounded by many Streets with the Names of all European Capital Cities, including Moscow and even Constantinople.

Not Ankara : Obviously, Because it's Not Located inside Europe, But in Asia !

 

(../..)

 

("Draft-News")

 

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 politkovskaya_gongadze_adali_400

Hu Jia's prize brings SAKHAROV's wife to "EuroFora" on murders of Journalists Politkofskaya, Gongadze and Adali :

- Elena Bonner : "All Journalists' murders must be fully investigated", without Double Standards.                                                                                    

During a special Mega-Event to celebrate 20 Years of SAKHAROV Prize for "Freedom of Thought", attributed in 2008 by EU Parliament to jailed Chinese Cyber-Dissident Hu JIA, the move was reinforced by strongly criticizing the persisting impunity in three cases of Journalists' Murders, such as POLITKOVSKAYA in Russia, GONGADZE in Ukraine, and ADALI in Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus.

Any bureaucratic doubt about whether Cyber-dissidents like Hu JIA might have, or not, a right to be protected as all Journalists must be, particularly when they take risks to search, find and publish original and critical News on issues of general interest to the society, could not resist to the emotion provoked by the message of his Wife, Zeng JINYAN spectacularly transmitted at a big screen in EU Parliament's hemicycle :

- "The most important and most interesting thing he did was to ... say the Truth :.. to write about the phenomena he observed... He never stopped Publishing.. on websites, so that the Public could learn about the reality .. and understand it.  In my view, this has been his greatest contribution", stressed the young wife of the jailed man, eager to cite also the cases of other critical journalists who faced various kinds of "harassment".

 - "Welcoming all those who have suffered for defending Human Rights", EU Parliament's President, German MEP Hans Gert POETTERING, who had invited to Strasbourg all former Sakharov prize-winners from various Countries throughout the World, said that "China needs Europe, and Europe needs China : A great nation" with which "we want to have a good relationship", "association and ..friendship". "But we are never going to stop our fight for Human Rights, and No Government can expect this from us".

    - "It's impossible  to achieve goals of Peace, if Human Rights are left out. In fact, Peace and Human Rights are intrinsequaly linked", added POETTERING.

    It's in this spirit that MEPs adopted, on Thursday, a Resolution denouncing that "the criminal
investigation and trial following the murder of (a) Journalist ...raises serious concerns with regard to transparency and respect for the rule of law", when a "brutal killing has not yet been fully investigated and solved in a satisfactory way".

    The text refered to dissident Journalist "Anna POLITOVSKAYA", a critic of Tchechen conflict, killed some years ago in Moscow, where Russian Authorities have found, arrested and are currently judging two executants, while also searching to arrest also a 3rd one, allegedly escaped in Belgium. But they have not yet found the instigators.

     Similar texts were adopted recently also on dissident Ukranian Journalist Georgiy GONGADZE's murder, for which Ukranian Authorities have at least found, arrested and condemned 2 executants to 12 and 13 Years of jail, but not yet the instigators. For that purpose, they recently accepted an International Experts team to participate to the investigations.     

But, it's only for the Murder of dissident Turkish Cypriot Journalist ADALI, in the occupied territories of Cyprus, that Turkey has NOT yet found ANYONE responsible, and even claimed recently inside CoE that it would be "impossible" to do so !    

These astonishing differences exist despite the fact that ECHR condemned alike Ukraine and Turkey with 2 Judgements on the same year : 2005, for the murders of  Journalists GONGADZE and ADALI, strong critics of Corruption in Ukraine, and of Ankara's policies on mass-influx of Turkish Settlers in the Occupied Territories of Cyprus, respectively.    

Regarless of that, CoE's Committee of Ministers, who is entrusted with the duty to supervise execution of ECHR's judgements, has just asked Ukraine's Government to reply to further questions on Gongadze's murder before March 2009, while Turkey, curiously, got a longer postponement for answering questions on Adali's murder, until June...   

A comparison of these cases, raises serious questions about Double Standards :

------------------------

On TRANSPARENCY :
--------------------------
    On Gongadze's murder, CoE's body speaks even about the participation of
"an INTERNATIONAL group of Experts" in the Investigation, (f.ex. of "Tape Recordings"), accepted by Ukraine.
    On the contrary, on Adali's murder, CoE is obliged to repeatedly ask (for a 2nd
time) Turkey whether, at least, it informed the victims' Family, or not...
------------------------------
- On EFFICIENCY :
-----------------------
On Gongadze's murder, CoE formally "recalls that the Committee (of Ministers) ..URGED the Ukranian authorities.. to TAKE ALL NECESSARY INVESTIGATIVE STEPS TO ACHIEVE CONCRETE and VISIBLE RESULTS in the INVESTIGATION, aimed at the Identification of the INSTIGATORS and Organisers of the Murder", and "STRONGLY INVITED the Ukranian Authorities to provide information on the PROGRESS IN THE INVESTIGATION", before MARCH 2009.

But, on Adali's murder, on the contrary, CoE's body merely .. "took note" of the "arguments presented by" Cyprus, which denounce the absence of any proof of new "investigation" by Turkey. Following Turkey's own suggestion (!), it simply "noted" that there is "no limitation period" for "any new element" to "lead potentialy (sic !) to a Re-Opening of the Investigation". Without saying who might find any such "new" fact, since Turkey stoped searching... It also POSTPONED the issue until .. JUNE  !
-----------------------
 - On the PUNISHMENT OF THOSE RESPONSIBLE :
----------------------
 -  On Gongadze's murder case, Ukranian Authorities already arrested and condemned, at least 2 suspects, to 12 and 13 Years of jail. And on Politkovskaya's murder at least 2 suspects are judged, and a 3rd one "wanted".

On the contrary, on Adali's murder case, the Turkish authorities simply claim that "it had not been possible to obtain new .. information .. on the basis of which criminal charges could be brought against ANY person" !...

Moreover,  a LETTER sent by Turkey ...2 Years after CoE's 2006 call to re-investigate anew Adali's murder case, is totally EMPTY of Facts ! As Cypus' Delegation denounced earlier, Turkey's Letter ONLY CLAIMS that a "New Investigation" was made without any result, but does NOT even cite ANY FACT to prove it :

F.ex.,on the crucial issue of the "MOTIVATIONS" behind Adali's murder, noted by ECHR, Turkey MERELY CLAIMS that "all allegations  were investigated; without result", but OMITS ANY FACT TO PROVE IT !..(It doesn't even remind which were these "allegations").. .

+ On ECHR's astonishment that the Turkish Occupation regime didn't produce any "BALLISTIC REPORT" on the Shots which murdered Adali, Turkey again repeats, 12 years later, that, still, even until now, "it  was not possible to obtain the BalisticReport"...

- As for the astonishing absence of key-WITNESSES' Testimonies, denounced by ECHR, Turkey agains repeats various pretexts avoiding to reveal anything, (Fex. that a person "left" the Occupied Territories  "on 2002", or that another witness was heard, but without revealing nothing of what he said, etc).

Turkey obviously "FAILS TO MEET THE CRITICISM made BY THE COURT" for lack of any efficient Investigation in Adali's case, concluded Cyprus' Government.
---------------------------------------------
Replying to our Question which COMPARED these 3 outstanding cases of "JOURNALISTS MURDERS", Adali, Gongadze and Politkovskaya, in order to avoid "Double Standards" by asking from Ukraine and Russia more than what is asked EU candidate Turkey, many European personalities were critical /

They criticised Ankara's recent claim at the CoE to stop investigating, because it would be "impossible to find anyone" responsible for the 5 bullet shots which killed Kutlu ADALI in front of his Family Home, contrary to the other two Journalists' murders, where Ukraine and Russia at least arrested the executants, searching now for the instigators :
----------------------------------

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    - "Where was that ? In Turkish Occupied Cyprus ? WITHOUT ANY DOUBT : Any murder of Journalist should be investigated in full ! All these Murders must be investigated !", replied the famous SAKHAROV's wife, Elena BONNER to our question on Adali's case, compared to Gongadze and Politofskaya.

    Elena Bonner spoke us EXCLUSIVELY shortly after being honored by the President
of EU Parliament on the occasion of 20 Years of her husband's SAKHAROV Prize.

    A strong personality, Sakharov's wife even had to struggle against an anonymous EU staffer who, astonishingly, tried to stop her speaking when h heard our question on "Turkey" (!) : - "Please, let me translate, she continues
speaking, don't stop us !", had to cry Sakharov's daughter, (a Journalist
herself), who was translating her mothers' reply, (obliged to speak louder to
make her voice heard despite the harassment).. (= + Audio Proof !)

    Earlier, Elena Bonner also fustigated "Double Standards" at another case, on
Western countries' attitude vis a vis Kosovo and the Kurds : -F.ex. "You have
recognized a few 400.000 Kosovars as an "independent" country, but you still
deny that to 30 millions of Kurds in Turkey !", she denounced.
-----------------------------
    - "This (ADALI's murder) is an issue which should be pursued by the Committee
for Human Rights. That's why we have one, and it's its duty to examine cases of
Journalists' murders as the one you referred to. You should bring the case in
front of that Committee", suggested in reply to our question on Adali, EU
Parliament's President, German MEP Hans Gert POETTERING.

    - "It's impossible  to achieve goals of PEACE, if HUMAN RIGHTS are left out :
in fact, Peace and Human Rights are intrinsequaly linked", added POETTERING.
--------------------------------------
    + "For us (European/International Federation of Journalists) it's clear :
Whenever a Journalist is Murdered, the Investigation should continue until
those Responsible are found !", replied earlier to another question on ADALI
EFJ/IFJ's Secretary General, Aidan WHITE.

    Speaking as a matter of General Principle, White asked us for "concrete data"
on the execution of ECHR's judgement on Adali case, in order to "look at it in
depth" and "make a formal statement", in comparison with the other Murdered
Journalist case, also pending at CoE's  Ministers for completing its execution,
on Ukranian Gongadze.
----------------------------------------------------
     From EU Rapporteur on Human Rights, vice-President of EU Parliament Liberties' Committee, MEP Giusto CATANIA, we were told that, since there is an ECHR judgement in both Adali and Gongadge's cases, "Turkey must naturally execute the judgement and make a full and efficient investigation, until those responsible for the Journalist's murder are found and punished".

    Even if "we (Catania's "EuroLeft" Group) support Turkey's EU perspectives, this does not mean that Ankara should not behave properly. On the contrary, it means that they have to meet tough conditions, particularly on Human Rights", was added on the occasion of Adali's murder case.

    Moreover, "since you raise the issue of Mr. Adali's muder as a part of a Series of Journalist's murders, including fex. Gongadze, Politkovskaya, ao., tthen we (EU) could also act together with CoE's Commissioner on Human Rights, Thomas HAMMARBERG, it was suggested.

    - "We (EU) must step up efforts against the problem of IMPUNITY : Real Peace cannot exist without Justice",  stressed also this week at EU Parliament in Strasbourg, French Minister on Human Rights, Mrs Rama YADE.
------------------------
                     

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