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Hagia Sophia Features in New Turkish Passports

Hagia Sophia Turkish passports
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Credit: Arild Vagen/cc3/wikipedia

Hagia Sophia, the symbolic center of the Greek Orthodox faith that was converted by Turkey into a mosque in 2020, will be featured in the new Turkish passport, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Tuesday.

According to the Turkish president, the new passports that are made in Turkey will be issued next August.

The Hagia Sophia will be depicted in these in addition to other Turkish landmarks such as Topkapi, the palace located on a Bosphorus hill which was the home of the Muslim sultans during the Ottoman Empire.

On Wednesday, a day after the announcement, the Interior Ministry introduced the new official form of identification to the press along with a new design for driver’s licenses.

According to the minister, the locally made passports will have “newer technology” with more security features. “[The new passports contain] a contactless chip running on AKIS (an operating system developed by Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey),” the minister stressed.

Hagia Sophia engraved on new passports

The new passport also has new visual features; most significantly, “Turkey” has been replaced with “Türkiye,” a decision already implemented in several public agencies.

The pages will contain symbols and images depicting well-known landmarks and features of Turkish cities while a picture of the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul is imprinted on the middle pages of the passport.

The UNESCO World Heritage monument was built in the year 532 C.E. and served as a church for 916 years. Until 1453, the “Great Church,” as the Byzantines called it, was the eastern heart of Christianity.

It was turned into a mosque in 1453 after the conquest of Istanbul but was converted into a museum in 1934.

In early July 2020, the Turkish Council of State annulled the Cabinet’s 1934 decision to establish the museum, revoking the monument’s status, and a subsequent decree by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the reclassification of Hagia Sophia as a mosque.

In April 2022, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his “sadness and disgust” at the vandalism to a door of Hagia Sophia in a call with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

Mitsotakis said that the damage to the Imperial Gate demonstrated disrespect for the monument’s history, integrity, and universal character.

The 15th-century door was used by Byzantine emperors to enter the most significant Orthodox place of worship.

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