Letter to Mrs. Irina Bokova

Director-General  UNESCO

July 6, 2016

To: Irina Bokova

Director-General

UNESCO  Paris

Dear Mrs. Bokova,

Having been made aware that UNESCO will be meeting in Istanbul between July 10 and 20, we appeal to you directly to raise with the authorities the issue regarding the status of the World Heritage site of Hagia Sophia. As is well known, the Turkish authorities intend to gradually convert Hagia Sophia from a museum into a Mosque. We believe UNESCO has a responsibility to protest these intentions of the Turkish government.
As has been widely publicized, Hagia Sophia has been used for the performance of Islamic prayers since the beginning of Ramadan.Furthermore, since July 1, Hagia Sophia has been used for the first time since 1931 as a call to prayer. Over the past two years, large crowds have frequently gathered outside Hagia Sophia to perform their prayers. UNESCO officials have denied any sort of intentions by the Turkish authorities to transform Hagia Sophia into a Mosque despite the mounting evidence since 2013, including public statements made by Turkish officials.
We wish to remind you that Hagia Sophia was established as a Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Church during the sixth century and was used as such until 1453, when the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople. Hagia Sophia must be protected not only for historic reasons, but also because it is a holy site for Orthodox Christians. As a World Heritage Site, Hagia Sophia must be protected by UNESCO. It should be noted that Turkey has already converted three former Church-Museums named Hagia Sophia into Mosques. It has been fairly obvious based upon these trends what Turkey’s plans for Hagia Sophia have been, not withstanding UNESCO’s denial.
Therefore, since UNESCO will be convening in Turkey in the coming days, we ask from the organization to put a protest forward to oppose any further use of Hagia Sophia for purposes that threaten its present status as a Museum.

 

Thank You,

International Hellenic Association

25 thoughts on “Letter to Mrs. Irina Bokova

  1. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    UNESCO must excercise all its power to maintain the present status of HAGIA Sophia as a museum.

    Otherwise, the institution of UNESCO World Heritage Sites has not any meaning.

    Capt. Evangelos Rigos
    Member of IHA Executive Council

  2. Hagia Sophia is a Museum under the protection of UNESCO and should never be converted to a Mosque.

    Martha Sinis
    Docent at the Walters Art Museum
    Baltimore, Maryland
    U.S.A.

  3. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    It is the duty of the organization that you serve to protect the status of Agia Sofia. The upcoming meeting of UNESCO in Turkey is a great opportunity for you to state your organization’s position loud and clear.

    Thank you,

    Vassiliki Aroniadou-Anderjaska, Ph.D.

  4. Hagia Sophia has been designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO. UNESCO must publicly oppose Turkish efforts to change the status of Hagia Sophia. Otherwise, no important monument
    anywhere will be safe.

    Theodore G. Karakostas
    Author

  5. Converting a world heritage site to a functional religeous facility places the artifacts in great danger for further degradation. A few hundred meters away from Agia Sophia is the great blue mosque, built to match the proportions and grandeur of the ancient church. In light of the proximity of this alternative muslim religeous place, the persistance of the Turkish government to convert Agia Sophia into a functional mosque is even more incomprehensible.

    We all look up to your orgnization to ensure that World Heritage sites such as the 1500 year old monument are effectively curated and protected from arbitrary decisions that can place it in great risk – particularly in light of the fact that UNESCO has already funded its restoration and protection in the past.

    Sincerely

    S. J. Pantazopoulou
    Professor
    Department of Civil Engineering
    York University, Canada

  6. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    UNESCO should exercise all its influenceto prevent the conversion of this great Christian Cathedral church into a muslim mosque by the present government of Turkey

    Stavros A. Anagnostopoulos
    Professor Emeritus, University of Patras
    Chief Editor, Earthquakes and Structures
    26500, Patras, GREECE

  7. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    I, as all Orthodox people in the world, expect that UNESCO will definitely support the protection of the status of Agia Sophia and oppose to Turkish efforts to convert It to a Mosque. Otherwise, all of us the Orthodox Christians will loose the our greatest holy site and UNESCO will loose entirely its power and privilege.

    Panayotis C. Yannopoulos, PhD.
    Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
    University of Patras, Greece

  8. Dear Ms. Bokova,

    UNESCO should exercise all its influenceto prevent the conversion of this great Christian Cathedral church into a muslim mosque by the present government of Turkey

    Π Νάσκου-Περράκη
    Καθηγήτρια Διεθνούς Δικαίου

  9. Dear Ms. Bokova,

    Please stand up for the cultural status of Hagia Sophia. This monument of World Heritage is a symbol of the Christian faith through the centuries. It needs protection and curating and not conversion to become a mosque as the Turkish regime plans. UNESCO must excersice its duty and power to protect it from such eventuality and the forthcoming conference in Turkey will be the best forum to do so.

    Sincerely .
    Thomais Kakouli-Duarte, PhD
    Research Leader EnviroCORE | Lecturer in Biosciences
    Department of Science and Health
    Institute of Technology Carlow
    Kilkenny Road, Carlow
    IRELAND
    and
    President of the Parish Council and Trustee of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Dublin, IRELAND

  10. Dear Ms. Bokova

    Please stand up and defend the cultural status of Hagia Sophia. This monument is a symbol of the Christian faith through the centuries and constitutes a common heritage of Humanity. It needs protection and curating and not conversion to become a mosque as the Turkish regime plans.
    As a Greek Cypriot, I’m completely disappointed by the UNESCO unwillingness and inability to basically protect the Christian Churches throughout the territory controlled by the Turkish regime, from Turkey itself to the Occupied area of Cyprus. While ALL mosques in the free Cyprus area are completely protected and retained in their original status, on the contrary most of the Churches in the occupied part of Cyprus are either turned into Mosques, or destroyed and in all cases all byzantine era icons are stolen. From my personal experience, a Byzantine Church “Panagia Tochniou” near my occupied village Mandresin the district of of Famagusta used to be re-conditioned by UNESCO before 1974. However, after the 1974 Turkish invasion it was left unprotected, everything stolen or destroyed, even the mosaics from the walls. Another, part of Humanity’s common heritage was left to be destroyed by barbarians.
    Please, stop this destruction, it’s our duty to the forthcoming generations, irrespective of religion or Ethnic descended.
    It’s time to stand up and protect Hagia Sophia, a major part of the Humanity’s heritage.

    Sincerely,
    George Kyriacou,
    Professor at Democritus University of Thrace.

  11. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    UNESCO should exercise all its influence to prevent Agia Sophia from becoming a muslim mosque. Agia Sophia is a great Christian Cathedral church, a symbol of Christian faith and, at the same time, a great monument of Byzantine art and history. The conversion of this World Heritage site into a mosque is an attempt to deprive the monument from its qualities and turn it into an instrument for political and religious purposes. We hope that you will do everything in your power to protect Agia Sophia.

    Sincerely,

    Agapi Dalkou, PhD
    Greek Language Teacher
    Model Junior High School of Evangeliki

  12. Dear Mrs. Bokova

    UNESCO should exercise its influence in preventing the conversion of Agia Sophia to a mosque. There are many mosques in the neighborhood of Agia Sophia to serve the needs of those with Muslim faith. Agia Sophia is a historical monument, the symbol of Christian faith with fantastic mosaics that need to be preserved and protected for the benefit of humanity and future generations. Its conversion to a mosque will be an insult to people with Christian faith and will create a rift between Christians and Muslims that is totally unnecessary but also dangerous. I am asking you to pay attention to this important sensitive issue of keeping Agia Sophia as museum something that many progressive Muslims also support.

    Ioannou Petros, Professor, Fellow IEEE, IFAC, IET Electrical Engineering Systems University of Southern California Director Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies Associate Director for Research METRANS Director of Financial Engineering Masters Program USA

  13. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    As a Greek Cypriot I also like to bring to your attention the destruction of over 500 churches in the occupied part of Cyprus. Many including the church in my village are converted to mosques, others to stables, taverns, many destroyed. While Turks living in Europe enjoy freedom of religion, having their own mosques without anyone taking over and destroying or converting them to something else Turkey is practicing a completely different policy that brings the country back to dark ages. The conversion of Agia Sophia to a mosque is an attempt that belongs to past times and has no place in the 21st century. I hope you put pressure on Turkey to respect religious places the same way it expects other countries to respect the religion it favors.

    Ioannou Petros, Professor, Fellow IEEE, IFAC, IET Electrical Engineering Systems University of Southern California Director Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies Associate Director for Research METRANS Director of Financial Engineering Masters Program USA

  14. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    UNESCO should exercise all its influence to preserve the current status of Agia Sophia as a museum and to prevent the conversion of this historic Christian Cathedral church into yet another mosque by the present government of Turkey, as happened with countless other churches. We all look up to your organization to ensure that World Heritage sites such as this1500 year old monument are guarded against political or ideological decisions of the moment.

    Triantafillou, Georgia, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA.

  15. Dear Mrs, Bokova,
    We look up to UNESCO to ensure that World Heritage sites such as Agia Sofia, the 1500 year old great religious monument, are effectively and efficiently protected from arbitrary decisions that can place them at great risk.
    Yours sincerely
    K.L. Katsifarakis
    Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

  16. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    One of the primary responsibilities of the UNESCO organization is to protect the status of monuments of great cultural and historical importance to the civilized world. Agia Sophia is such a monument. The world knows well that Agia Sophia’s character has been, an Orthodox Christian church of enormous importance to all Orthodox Christians for more than a thousand years even-though it has been converted into a mosque during its Ottoman occupation.

    Although the proper status of Agia Sophia would be a Christian Orthodox Church under the care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the newly founded secular state of Turkey had declared the monument a museum, a status that at least partially preserves its character.

    Even-though the well being of the monument falls under the direct responsibility of the Turkish government and UNESCO may not be able to dictate the way of treating this monument, UNESCO is still responsible to make an effort in protecting its cultural and historical character via all means at its disposal.

    It will be a disaster of great proportions and unforeseen consequences to allow the conversion of the great Christian Church of Agia Sophia into a mosque without any protest and condemnation. We as Orthodox Christians and academics urge your organization to use all means available to urge the Turkish authorities to at least preserve the current status of the monument and point out to them the danger of ignoring the existing sensitivities attached to a monument of such a great importance to Christianity and to the civilized world in general.

    Nikolaos Kodogianidis, Ph.D.
    Former professor of Mathematics, Jacksonville University
    Electrical Engineer, Fred Wilson & Associates
    Jacksonville, FL, USA

  17. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    Please do everything that you can do to preserve the status of Hagia Sophia as a world heritage monument. Hagia Sophia represents the concept of Christian Orthodoxy throughout time and as such it must be protected from the intentions of the Turkish officials to convert it into a mosque.

    Professor Nina Gatzoulis
    Humanities, Classics and Italian
    University of New Hampshire
    USA

  18. AIGION, GREECE, 11.07.2016

    Lady Mrs, Bokova,
    Please, accept my request as a Greek Citizen! The monument of AGIA SOFIA belongs to the whole Word, belongs to human Society! World Heritage sites such as Agia Sofia, the 1500 year old great religious monument, are effectively and efficiently protected from arbitrary decisions that can place them at great risk. Please, protect the Civilisation! Protect the Monuments!
    Best regards
    AMVROSIOS G. LENIS
    + Metropolitan of Kalavryta and Aigilaeia, Greece
    Meletopoulon, 44
    GR-251 00 AIGION, GREECE
    Fax. +30 26910 21634
    E-mail: mkkaig@gmail.com

  19. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    As Director-General of UNESCO, please do your duty: Respecting Religion, protect the status of Agia Sofia as a Christian Cathedral.

    Sincerely,
    Naoum Bacalis, Ph.D.
    Physics Researcher
    National Hellenic Research Foundation
    Athens, Greece

  20. Dear Mrs. Bokova,
    Haghia Sophia is a historical monument of a civilization that benefited the Turks , inspired the Turkish culture, and was copied to create a magnificent mosque. It is a testament to the civility of the Turkish leaders to allow it to remain a museum out of respect for its symbolism, and also out of respect for the foreign visitors who would pay to see a museum.

  21. Dear Mrs. Bokova,
    As all the world knows, Hagia Sophia was established as a Christian Cathedral during the sixth century and was used as such until 1453, when the Ottomans destroyed much of Constantinople. Hagia Sophia must be protected not only for historic reasons, but also because it is a holy site of huge significance for all Christians; especially, Orthodox Christians. The world expects you, as the Head of the UNESCO, to do all you can to protect such a unique World Heritage Site as The Hagia Sophia. It should be noted that Turkey has already converted three former Church-Museums named Hagia Sophia into Mosques. Your action is urgent; all the world is waiting and watching.
    With due respect,
    Dr. Tom Papadopoulos
    r. Senior Research Scientist
    Government of Canada, and
    former University Professor (in Greece and Canada)

  22. Dear Mrs Bokova,

    Please Do the best you can, to keep Hagia Sophia as the World Heritage Monument that it is ,for the whole world to enjoy and avoid unnecessary friction.
    Respectfully I thank you

    Dr Panayiotis Baltatzis MD
    Gen.Secretary of HANC
    (Hellenic American National Council)

  23. It is sad and disappointing that UNESCO has voiced no concern for the invasion of a world cultural monument bu in reality an Icon of worship for the world’s Orthodox Christians. We ask that from this point onward UNESCO respects its agreements and demands respect from the Turkish government towards the few remaining Christian monuments left standing.

    Ellene Phufas-Jousma, Professor
    SUNY ERIE
    Dept. Of English
    Buffalo NY

  24. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    Please do your best efforts, to protect our heritage and keep Hagia Sophia as a holy site of huge significance for all Christians.

    Respectfully thank you,

    Athina Filippou-Katehis
    Administrative Assistance
    District Office of Education
    Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
    New York, NY

  25. Dear Mrs. Bokova,

    Please do you best to keep Hagia Sophia open and accessible. Geek culture should not be minimized in its importance, at all. As a Greek American, I’m proud to say that I have direct roots that come from the origins of democracy and culture, and those roots are much older than those of colonial pilgrims! Anything that reflects the traditions and cultural importance that is offered through Greek heritage should never be forgotten.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Barbara Bowersox, DDS
    Westminster, Maryland

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