Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, July 2020
Murat Cetinmuhurdar / Turkish Presidential Press Office / Reuters

In recent weeks, the Turkish government has courted international condemnation for its handling of the country’s unique cultural heritage. In early July, rising waters from a new dam flooded the archaeological site of Hasankeyf, leading The New York Times to declare that the ancient valley had been “lost to ‘progress.’” Then, soon after, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia—the ancient church turned mosque turned museum—would be changed back into a mosque. Critics have fretted about what this will mean for the building’s ornate Byzantine mosaics, highlighting the growing material toll of

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