Turkey will inform UNESCO about Hagia Sophia moves – foreign minister

People pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul on July 10, 2020 after the monument’s status as a museum was turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Turkey will inform UNESCO about Hagia Sophia moves – foreign minister

  • President Tayyip Erdogan declares Hagia Sophia a mosque, said the first prayers would be held there within two weeks
  • UNESCO would review the status of the monument as a World Heritage Site

ISTANBUL: Turkey will inform the United Nation’s cultural body UNESCO about changes to Istanbul’s ancient Hagia Sophia after Ankara converted the museum back into a mosque, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
On Friday, a Turkish court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum in 1934 was unlawful and President Tayyip Erdogan, declaring it a mosque, said the first prayers would be held there within two weeks.
UNESCO said on Friday it would review the status of the monument as a World Heritage Site following Erdogan’s enouncement.
Cavusoglu said Ankara was surprised by UNESCO’s reaction and would let it know of further steps that will be taken regarding Hagia Sophia, which was a Byzantine church for nine centuries before the Ottomans converted it to a mosque.
Turkey is sensitive about protecting its historical character, he said. “We have to protect our ancestors’ heritage. The function can be this way or that way — it does not matter,” Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT Haber.
Asked about criticism and expressions of concern from Greece, Pope Francis and others, Cavusoglu said the decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque was lawful.
“We respect everyone’s view even if we don’t agree with it but we strongly reject comments made in a way that infringes on Turkey’s sovereign rights,” he said.
Greece condemned the decision on Friday, saying it would have repercussions not only on relations between the two countries, but on Turkey’s ties with the European Union. Pope Francis said on Sunday he was hurt by the decision.


International summit urges UN to take tougher action against Iran

Updated 19 September 2020

International summit urges UN to take tougher action against Iran

  • More than 100,000 people from Europe, the US and Iran took part in the online Transatlantic Summit to Support a Free Iran
  • Among them were Republican and Democratic US politicians who set aside domestic differences to join the condemnation of the Iranian regime

CHICAGO: An international summit of activists and political leaders on Friday called on the UN to get tough on Iran’s “murderous, terrorist” government by implementing stronger sanctions against the regime in Tehran.

More than 100,000 people from Europe, the US and Iran took part in the online Transatlantic Summit to Support a Free Iran, which was organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).

Among them were Republican and Democratic US politicians who set aside domestic differences to join the condemnation of the Iranian regime and demand an end to its campaign of repression.

Several speakers highlighted a “new wave of executions” in Iran stemming from mass protests that began in 2018 and surged again in November 2019 after the Iranian regime increased the price of gasoline.

There was an international outcry this week after it was announced on Sept. 12 that Navid Afkari, an Iranian national wrestling champion, had been executed. He was arrested during the 2018 protests and accused of killing a security guard, a charge he denied.

“His only crime was to rise up and fight to overthrow a regime that has devastated Iran and drenched it in blood while plundering the nation,” said Maryam Rajavi, the newly elected president of NCRI, during her opening remarks at the summit.

“The people of Iran had been protesting for weeks against the death sentence handed down to him by (Iranian Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei’s judiciary. The people of Iran, human-rights advocates, freedom lovers and athletes launched an unprecedented worldwide campaign to stop the inhuman verdict.

“Today, Navid Afkari lives on in the hearts and struggle of thousands of resistance units in Iran, (which) will continue to resist and rise up for freedom and justice.”

The Iranian leadership has a long history of executing activists who oppose its rule. In 1988, more than 30,000 protesters were rounded up and put to death. Rajavi said that Iran’s leaders should face justice for those killings and the murders that followed in the following three decades.

“The experience of the past 40 years of the clerical regime’s rule in Iran has shown that it has continued its rule by committing 120,000 executions on political grounds, including the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, 90 percent of whom belonged to the PMOI,” she added.

“The regime has been condemned 66 times so far by the UN General Assembly, as well as in the Human Rights Commission and Council for its gross human rights violations.”

Iran has spent more than $30 billion to protect the regime of dictator Bashar Assad in neighboring Syria, Rajavi said, ordering Iranian militants and their allies deployed there to target and kill American soldiers and advisers.

With American politics increasingly divided in the run-up to the presidential election on Nov. 3, there was a rare display of harmony between Republicans and Democrats.

The long list of speakers included Republicans such as Trump adviser and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former house speaker Newt Gingrich, and senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side, senators Bob Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen and Kirsten Gillibrand, and former senator Joe Lieberman all called for tougher and more restrictive sanctions on Iran.

“Iran is a regime of terror,” Giuliani said during his live video address. “Every year brings a new year of violations of human rights, deprivation and terrorism.”

Although most speakers looked to the future, urging the UN to strengthen its sanctions against Iran, Giuliani took the opportunity to criticize former President Barack Obama for trying to “appease” Tehran in 2015 by agreeing to give the Iranians $1 billion at the time of the negotiations for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the so-called nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to give up its research into nuclear weapons.

British MP David Jones said that the (JCPOA) and the failure to crack down on the Iranian regime had “encouraged them to pursue terrorism against its critics,” including members of the US Senate and Giuliani, who has been an outspoken critic of the regime for many years.

Other speakers including former general James Jones, who served during the Obama administration. He denounced the regime in Tehran as one that engages in “scandalous, outrageous and unspeakable cruelty to their own people.”

On Aug. 14, the UN Security Council rejected a US-led draft resolution calling for an extension of a UN arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October. Trump is expected to announce this week that the US will impose its own embargo against Iran, and urge other nations to follow suit.

Rajavi criticized the UN for failing to act after the attacks on protesters last fall, or to condemn the execution of Afkari.