Turkey seeks return of 16th-century Quran from London

Published 24.10.2017 22:25

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism launched a legal process to stop the sale of a 16th-century copy of the Quran penned by the son of an Ottoman calligraphy master.

The Muslim holy book will be put up for auction by Christie's on Oct. 26 for 120,000 pounds. Turkish authorities say it was likely smuggled from Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry contacted the auction company and asked them to suspend the sale. Christie's officials are yet to respond to the request .

The Quran, signed by Mustafa Dede, the son of Shaykh Hamdullah credited for discovering the Ottoman art of calligraphy, is largely intact as its photos on Christie's website shows.

After decades-long fruitless efforts to retrieve relics smuggled abroad, Turkey launched a new initiative in the past decade to hunt down artifacts on display in prominent museums across the globe or in private collections. Since 2003, Turkey has been pursuing a legal process for the retrieval of several artifacts including a China panel taken from the tomb of Ottoman Sultan Selim II on display in the Louvre Museum after it was smuggled abroad circa 1880.

Earlier this year, Christie's was at the center of controversy for the sale of another artifact smuggled from Turkey. "Guennol Stargazer," a five-millennium-old stone idol smuggled from the country in the 1960s went on sale in the United States last April despite protests by Turkey and was sold for $14.4 million. The auction house defended the sale, arguing that Turkey had no evidence showing the statuette was looted and smuggled.

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