- Title: "Get your hands off Hagia Sophia," Italy's far-right Salvini leads demo in Milan
- Date: 13th July 2020
- Summary: MILAN, ITALY (JULY 13, 2020) (REUTERS) GROUP OF PROTESTERS NEAR THE TURKISH CONSULATE HOLDING BANNERS READING (Italian): "GET YOUR HANDS OFF HAGIA SOPHIA" AND "NEVER TURKEY IN EUROPE" VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS WEARING MASKS HOLDING SIGNS READING (Italian): "GET YOUR HANDS OFF HAGIA SOPHIA" PROTESTER HOLDING SIGN READING (Italian): "HAGIA SOPHIA IS NOT A MOSQUE" VARIOUS OF LEADER OF FAR-RIGHT LEAGUE PARTY, MATTEO SALVINI, WEARING MASK WITH COLOURS OF THE ITALIAN FLAG STANDING WITH PROTESTERS BY BANNER READING "GET YOUR HANDS OFF HAGIA SOPHIA" SIGN READING (Italian): "STOP ISLAMIC EXTREMISM" (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) LEADER OF LEAGUE PARTY, MATTEO SALVINI, SAYING: "Because it is not possible that the historical, cultural and religious heritage of Christianity around the world is turned into mosques. It is not possible that Islamic extremism wipes out centuries of history, of rights, of freedom, of conquests and it is not possible that the Turkish regime allows itself to transform churches into mosques with nobody saying anything. We feel the suffering of the Holy Father (Pope Francis), we hope that the international community reacts and that the European Union, that is filling the Turkish regime with billions of euros, reacts. Also because they (Turkish government) have said that this is only the first step and if we continue to bow our heads we will shortly find a mosque instead of the Duomo (Cathedral)." PROTESTER HOLDING SIGN READING (Italian): "HAGIA SOPHIA IS NOT A MOSQUE" (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) LEADER OF LEAGUE PARTY, MATTEO SALVINI, SAYING: "I would stop every kind of financial aid to the Turkish regime and I would terminate once and for all any hypothesis of Turkey entering the European Union because we have given more than 10 billion euros to a regime that transforms churches into mosques and I think they have gone over the limit. From our government I only hear silence. Silence on China, silence on Turkey, silence on Iran, silence on Venezuela." PROTESTERS IN MASKS VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS TAKING SELFIES WITH SALVINI, WHO IS WEARING ITALIAN FLAG MASK PROTESTERS IN MASKS HOLDING SIGNS READING (Italian): "NEVER TURKEY IN EUROPE" (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROTESTER, DONATO LO SCALZO, SAYING: "It's a historical monument, it is a symbol of Christianity, it is a museum, it's not a mosque." POLICE BY DEMONSTRATION / VIEW OF TURKISH CONSULATE TURKISH FLAG ON CONSULATE POLICE BY CONSULATE ENTRANCE TO TURKISH CONSULATE PROTESTERS HOLDING BANNER READING (Italian): "GET YOUR HANDS OFF HAGIA SOPHIA" OUTSIDE TURKISH CONSULATE ENTRANCE, THEN WALKING AWAY
- Embargoed: 27th July 2020 18:15
- Keywords: Hagia Sophia League Matteo Salvini Salvini Turkey mosque museum
- Location: MILAN, ITALY
- City: MILAN, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Topics: Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001CMN8ITJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Leader of Italy's far-right League party Matteo Salvini led a demonstration by the Turkish consulate in Milan on Monday (July 13) to protest against Turkey's decision to convert Istanbul's Hagia Sophia museum back into a mosque.
Around 60 protesters gathered near the consulate demanding that the 1,500-year-old ancient monument that was once a Christian cathedral should not be a mosque because it is a "symbol of Christianity".
On Friday (July 10), 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.
Salvini, who is often seen kissing his rosary beads during public events, described the government as a "Turkish regime" and said "it is not possible that the historical, cultural and religious heritage of Christianity around the world is turned into mosques."
Wearing a mask with the colours of the Italian flag, he held a large banner alongside protesters reading "Get your hands off Hagia Sophia."
Pope Francis on Sunday (July 12) also condemned Erdogan's decision, telling faithful he was "very pained" during his weekly blessing in St. Peter's Square.
Salvini said he felt the pope's suffering and quipped that Milan's landmark Duomo cathedral could one day become a mosque if "we continue to bow our heads."
The United States, Russia, Greece and church leaders are among those to express concern about changing the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.
Erdogan has said the Hagia Sophia would remain open to Muslims, Christians and foreigners.
(Production: Alex Fraser, Antonio Denti, Emily Roe)
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