A video clip of the burning of the Turkish flag in Greece provoked Ankara, forcing it to issue an outraged official statement on Saturday.
Videos spread on social media, showing Greek demonstrators in the city of Thessaloniki, burning the Turkish flag during a protest against the reversion of the “Hagia Sophia” museum in Istanbul, Turkey, to its old status of a mosque.
Greece has witnessed separate demonstrations in recent days, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to revert the Hagia Sophia Museum, an important symbol for East Christians, into a mosque.
For its part, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned “strongly” on Saturday, statements by the Greek government and parliament members opposed to Ankara’s new step, in addition to the incident of burning the flag.
“”We strongly condemn the aggressive statements of Greek government and parliamentarians inciting their people against Turkey, and allowing its flag to be burned in Thessaloniki,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Hami Aksoy, said in a statement published by the Anatolian Agency.
On Friday, Athena criticized Turkey’s decision to revert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, describing the matter as a sign of “weakness”, at a time when the Churches of Greece rang their bells to protest against this controversial move.
“What is happening on this day is not a show of strength, but a sign of weakness,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement, adding that this step would not “reduce the status of a world heritage landmark.”
“For us Orthodox Christians in particular, today Hagia Sophia is more in our hearts than ever before. It is where our hearts fail,” Mitsotakis added.
The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had joined, on Friday afternoon, thousands of Muslims in the first prayer in the Hagia Sophia, after its controversial reversal to a mosque.
This is the first congregational prayer for 86 years in the architectural edifice built in the sixth century AD. It was an orthodox church, and then a roman catholic church. The Ottomans purchased the building and converted it into a mosque. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey converted it into a museum in the year 1934. Now, this museum is again reverted into a mosque.
On July 10, the Turkish State Council, the country’s top administrative court, revoked a decision dating back to 1934 to transform the Hagia Sophia into a museum.
In the middle of the day, the churches of Greece rang their bells and flew their flags in protest against what the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and Archbishop of Athens, Patriarch Erionimus, described as “an unholy act of blasphemy” of the former cathedral.
“It is not a day of mourning, it is a day to unveil Turkey’s growing hostility,” Konstantinos Bogdanos, a Democrat, told AFP.