A lot has happened in the last 10 years in Turkey. The Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 started as a peaceful citizens’ demonstration against the government’s plans to demolish a park in Istanbul city center in order to open space for the building of an Ottoman-themed mall and a new mosque, and after disproportionate police violence, turned into a mass movement against an increasingly authoritarian rule. The 2015 break-up of the Kurdish-Turkish peace process botched hopes for ending the 40-year conflict in the country’s Southeast. The failed coup in 2016 lead to ferocious crackdown on oppositional politicians, journalists, academics and public intellectuals. Add to this the debacle of Turkey’s foreign policy in Syria, Libya, and Cyprus, the economic crisis looming high in the last years and the increasing poverty rates that have brewed social discontent and anger and have translated into declining popularity of the ruling party.

The 2020 decision to convert Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque is best understood within this larger political and social context.



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