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Press Office

Athens, 3 May 2022

Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) Secretary General: Conscious Shifting of Turkey and Challenging the Secular State

"I think now we are witnessing a conscious shift in Turkey, challenging the secular state established by Ataturk almost a hundred years ago. We see it happening step by step. I am shocked by the Turkish President’s image as a white-robed pilgrim in Mecca." The above were stated by the General Secretary of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), New Democracy MP of Larissa Maximos Charakopoulos, speaking on ERT-1 with journalists Alexandra Kaimenou and Costas Laskaratos.

Triggered by Tayyip Erdogan’s pilgrimage in Mecca, Mr. Charakopoulos said that "this is something happening for the first time in a hundred years since the establishment of the Turkish Republic, since its transition from the Ottoman Empire. A transition made by Kemal Ataturk, which marked the secularisation of the Turkish state with the abolition of the Sharia, the abolition of Islamic headscarves, the conversion of emblematic Orthodox temples from mosques to museums, such as Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia of the Monastery of Chora. Unfortunately, what we see now is not just an instumentalisation of religion by Tayyip Erdogan, as frivolous analysts maintain in recent years. I think we are now talking about a conscious shift in Turkey, a challenge to the secular state established by Ataturk. We see it happening step by step. I am shocked by the Turkish President’s image as a white-robed pilgrim in Mecca."

Asked about the recent vandalism of the Hagia Sophia Imperial Door, Maximos Charakopoulos referred to his recent visit to the Hagia Sophia narthex. In his words, "the picture was heartbreaking. It has been turned into a shoe rack. I simply could not go inside the temple and see its current image, how this majestic temple looks today –compared to what we knew, the ultimate symbol of Ecumenical Orthodoxy. The IAO, an organisation embracing orthodox MPs from twenty-five parliaments, feeling disappointed because reactions by international organisations, UNESCO and by the international community and governments, even orthodox, were not as expected, has undertaken a series of actions aimed at raising international public awareness regarding the issue of Hagia Sophia, and not let it be forgotten.

We have published a multilingual edition on Hagia Sophia, presenting iconic Hagia Sophia temples from Scotland to China. We are in the process of presenting this volume to European capitals and beyond - it is sent to diplomatic missions, to heads of state. We call on the Council of Europe to draft and adopt a Cultural Route of Hagia Sophia temples; we are also launching an international competition on the subject of Hagia Sophia, to show the lifelong hands-on relationship of us Orthodox Greeks, but also of all Christians with Hagia Sophia, this unique World Heritage monument".

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