Erdoğan’s friend gets contract for Hagia Sophia restoration

News About Turkey - NAT
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The General Directorate of Foundations on December 30 lodged a tender for the restoration of Hagia Sophia, which has been a talking point recently due to the damage caused by visitors following its conversion into a mosque.

Closed negotiations were held to determine the company to get the contract for the “preparation of restoration projects of the Hagia Sophia Complex and the restoration of the tombs, children’s school and the building of muwaqqit [the person who observes the sky to determine the time of prayers].

A partnership of three companies, Hassa Architecture, Iras Yapı and Adamak Restoration, were handed a contract worth 23.05 million Turkish lira (~1.4 million US dollars), daily BirGün reported. The contract was signed on January 21 and the companies were requested to complete the restoration and the preparation of the projects by January 2024.

CLICK – ‘The endless suffering of Hagia Sophia’

Erdoğan’s friend

Muharrem Hilmi Şenalp, the owner of the Hassa Architecture company, is known to be a “close friend” of President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

He is also the architect of the “Monument of Martyrs,” built on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus Bridge following the 2016 coup attempt. The company carried out many projects, including a mosque and cultural center in Marmara University Faculty of Theology, the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Campus of Marmara University, the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives, Ataşehir Mimar Sinan Mosque and the restoration of Eyüp Sultan Tomb.

Between 2011 and 2021, the company received 19 contracts from public institutions worth 114.2 million lira (~7 million dollars) in total.

Toilet contract

The General Directorate of Foundations had previously given a contract worth 950,000 lira (~58,000 dollars) for the renewal of the toilets of Hagia Sophia following its conversion in 2020 to make toilets “suit the mosque.”

Last year, a company got an 850,000 lira contract to renew the camera system of Hagia Sophia. The owners of the company were revealed to be the children of Murat Hazıroğlu, a former İstanbul provincial deputy chair and municipal council member of the AKP.

Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque

Hagia Sophia was used as a church for 916 years. In 1453, it was converted into a mosque by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II when the empire took over İstanbul. Under the Republic of Turkey, it became a museum.

The Permanent Foundations’ Association for Serving Historical Artifacts and Surroundings appealed to the Council of State in 2005, challenging the status of Hagia Sophia in a lawsuit. The association demanded the stay of execution and the annulment of the Council of Ministers decree dated 1934 that paved the way for the Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a museum.

The 10th Chamber of the Council of State rejected the request for a stay of execution on June 24, 2005. In 2008, it rejected the lawsuit on the grounds that the use of Hagia Sophia as a museum was not against the law.

The Council of State’s Plenary Session of Administrative Law Chambers upheld this verdict. The Association filed another lawsuit in 2016.

The Constitutional Court concluded the individual application of the Association in 2018. While the Association claimed that freedom of thought and faith was violated, the court found the application “inadmissible” due to “ratione personae non-jurisdiction without being examined.”

The 10th Chamber of the Council of State, on July 10, 2020, announced that it annulled the Council of Ministers Decree, which was dated November 24, 1934, and turned Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum.

Shortly after this verdict was announced, the Presidential Decree handing Hagia Sophia over to the Presidency of Religious Affairs and opening it to worship as a mosque was published in the Official Gazette.

In the decree of the President published on the Official Gazette on July 10, a reference was made to the annulment of the Council of State.

Hagia Sophia reopened as a mosque on July 24, 2020, with the Friday prayers attended by several top state officials, including Erdoğan.



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