ISTANBUL (Hetq)–Whether by accident or politically inspired, the newly launched, state-run Armenian radio station in Turkey is broadcasting in the Eastern Armenian dialect, spoken by the Armenians of the Republic of Armenia and quite incomprehensible to Armenians living in Turkey. Officials now say that they are investigating the matter. But some speculate the station’s intended audience was never meant to be the Armenians of Turkey.
“This means Turkey’s target audience is Armenia, not their own citizens,” said Etyen Mahkupian, the editor in chief of the weekly Agos newspaper, speaking to the Hurriyet Daily News.
“This initiative is for supporting the foreign policies of Turkey; therefore, it is not sincere,” he added. “It bears thought that Turkey makes such an initiative without trying to find out what its own citizens need.”
According to Hurriyet, Turkey’s Chief Negotiator to the European Union Egemen Bagis expressed surprise at the situation last Friday night and said he will investigate. In a speech before an annual meeting on the European Union and Turkey, sponsored by daily Radikal and the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, Bagis defended the ruling party’s outreach into state broadcasts in “local languages.”
When told that most local Armenians did not understand the broadcasts, Bagis said: “I hadn’t a clue. This is the first time I have heard this. Perhaps TRT could only find news presenters speaking this dialect, I just don’t know. But I will look into it.”
One major problem faced by young Armenians in Turkey is their lack of proficiency in speaking their mother tongue even though most graduate from minority schools. Lack of proficiency also precludes them from following a radio station broadcast in a different dialect.
While the government has initiated efforts for the establishment of Armenian language and literature departments at universities, the current lack of academic teaching at the university level has taken its toll on the development of the language.
Some Armenians in Turkey attempted to establish a private Armenian radio station a decade ago with efforts led by journalist Hrant Dink, who was gunned down in 2007. Lack of funds prevented the establishment of the station. While the Armenian Society of Turkey had abandoned any hope of getting their own radio frequency, they were nevertheless surprised with TRT’s Armenian broadcast.