The unholy wisdom of invoking sovereignty

July 6, 2020

When writing about human rights defenders one comes regularly across invocations of “sovereignty”. Erdogan now uses the hyperbole for Hagia Sophia.

A recent example was India’s reaction to the UN High Commissioner’s amicus curiae brief [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/05/indias-overblown-notion-of-sovereignty-no-to-un-advice-for-supreme-court/] and a recurring one is China [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]. The USA feels also strongly: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/12/trump-issues-new-sanctions-on-the-icc-and-human-rights-defenders/.

On 4 July 2020 Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a fervent nationalist – rejected criticism over his willingness to convert Istanbul’s famed Hagia Sophia landmark into a mosque despite international and domestic concern. “Charges against our country over Hagia Sophia are a direct attack on our right to sovereignty,” Erdogan said. (Interestingly the same day an Istanbul court convicted human rights defenders [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/06/istanbul-court-jails-four-human-rights-defenders-on-terror-charges-seven-acquitted/]). 

We will never resort to seeking your permission or your consent,” he said last month in a retort to warnings from other countries on the Hagia Sophia. “Do you rule Turkey, or do we?”

Turkey’s top court is considering whether the museum can be redesignated as a mosque. Many scholars (not just Greek) think this is a terrible idea: https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/07/06/more-than-300-scholars-across-the-world-appeal-to-turkey-not-to-convert-hagia-sophia-into-a-mosque/.

Moreover, in order to change its status, a decision will have to be made by the Unesco intergovernmental committee. The Art Newspaper understands that the date of Unesco’s next committee meeting has not been set. Unesco declined to comment further regarding the Turkish government’s plans but Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, Unesco’s assistant director for culture, told Greek press last month that “before any decision can be taken to change the status of a Cultural Heritage Monument, such as Hagia Sophia, a decision of the relevant Unesco intergovernmental committee is required”. He added that Unesco had written to Turkish authorities in June outlining its concerns but had not yet received a reply.

https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/europe/1593782667-erdogan-interference-over-hagia-sophia-direct-attack-on-our-sovereignty

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/turkish-government-on-collision-course-with-unesco-over-hagia-sophia-mosque-initiative

One Response to “The unholy wisdom of invoking sovereignty”


  1. […] Amongst other things, I am accused of being biased. Also, I am accused to be writing for a vested agenda. Usually, my Hindu friends make these allegations since I write a lot about the persecution of Indian Muslims. However, recently I noticed Muslim friends on social media making the same kind of accusations against those who expressed displeasure at the conversion of Hagia Sofia into a mosque.[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/06/the-unholy-wisdom-of-invoking-sovereignty/%5D […]


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