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Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

A Turkish court has ruled that Istanbul's Hagia Sophia must be converted back into a mosque.

The big picture: The giant domed structure was constructed beginning in 532, and it served as the home of Eastern Orthodox Christianity for nine centuries before becoming a mosque following the Ottoman conquest in 1453. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led a campaign to reverse its conversion into a museum in 1934 despite international opposition, including from the U.S.

Between the lines: This is an attempt by Erdoğan to "reverse the ongoing erosion of his popular base," writes Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute.

  • "[T]he decision is unlikely to give him more than a temporary boost in popularity; what it will surely do is undermine Turkey’s international brand as an open, Muslim-majority society at peace with its Christian heritage," Cagaptay contends.
  • Erdoğan's career is defined in many ways by bringing Islam back into public life and he sees the construction — or in this case conversion — of massive mosques as a way to define his legacy, Cagaptay adds.
  • Flashback: The decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a museum was taken under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who re-founded Turkey as a secular state.

The other side: The step was taken despite lobbying from Greece and Russia, both centers of the Orthodox Church, and from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said it would erase a vital "bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures.”

The latest: Shortly after the ruling, Erdoğan declared Hagia Sophia open for worship. He reportedly plans to worship there himself next week.

Go deeper

Texas Republicans pass new congressional maps in their favor

Photo: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Texas House voted 84-59 late Monday to approve new congressional district maps that reduce the number of districts with Black and Hispanic majorities, per the Texas Tribune.

Why it matters: The legislation comes after recent census figures found Texas' growing diverse population doesn't bode well for Republicans, who then worked to protect incumbents with the redrawn maps.

2 hours ago - World

North Korea's military fires another ballistic missile into sea

A woman in Seoul, South Korea, walks past a television image if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired at least one ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Tuesday, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Pyongyang's latest in a series of recent missile launches happened hours after U.S. officials emphasized their commitment to restart negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since talks broke down during the Trump administration, AP notes.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump sues National Archives, Jan. 6 committee to block records request

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the National Archives from releasing White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing executive privilege.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's campaign to disrupt the committee's sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6, including his actions and communications leading up to the Capitol attack.