Turkey’s religious body publishes Koran in Armenian
Overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey’s top religious authority Diyanet said it has published thousands of copies of the Koran translated into Armenian for the first time, as it seeks to reach out to minority communities.
Yuksel Salman, director of Diyanet’s religious publications office, denied the publication of the Muslim holy book in Armenian has any link to the 100th anniversary last month of mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
He told AFP there was a “serious demand” from the small remaining Armenian Christian community in Turkey and diaspora for the translation of the Koran into their own language.
“In addition to our Armenian citizens, we could not remain indifferent to interest from the Armenian diaspora in learning the Koran,” he said in emailed comments.
“We have taken this step to introduce first-hand information about Islam, one of the biggest religions in the world.”
Some 4,000 copies of the Koran have been published in the two primary eastern and western dialects of Armenian after four years of work.
Turkey is home to a tiny Turkish-Armenian community, mostly based in Istanbul, who number around 60,000 and an even larger number of citizens of Armenia who migrated for work.
The timing of the Muslim holy book’s translation in Armenian coincided with the 100th anniversary this year of the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
But Salman said the project had no connection “neither with the 1915 events, nor other political agendas,”
“Translating the Koran into other languages is nothing new. This has been done for centuries.
“What we’ve been doing is to reach out to languages we have neglected so far.”
Turkey has been under mounting pressure to qualify as genocide the 1915 killings of Armenians and was infuriated by resolutions passed by several parliaments in Europe, as well as the use of the word by Pope Francis to describe the killings.
Armenia and Armenians in the diaspora say up to 1.5 million of their forefathers were killed by Ottoman forces in a targeted campaign of genocide. But Turkey hotly disputes the label.
Salman’s office has so far published the Koran in 16 languages, including Kurdish, the language of Turkey’s biggest ethnic minority who make up around 20 percent of the population.
In a rally in the Kurdish-majority southeast last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brandished a copy of the Koran in Kurdish. a gesture which angered opposition party leaders who accused the president of abusing sacred values for political ends.