Wikipedia describes Mem and Zin as

a Kurdish classic love story written down in 1692 (...).

In other words, it was written down roughly two-and-a-half centuries after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. With this in mind, it may seem silly to ask when the Mem and Zin was first printed. However, its author Ahmad Khani lived in Doğubayazıt in what is now Ağrı Province, an area that the Safavid Empire lost to the Ottomans after the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. A few decades earlier, in 1483, Sultan Bayezid II had prohibited printing in Arabic script in the Ottoman empire on penalty of death. Printing in other scripts, such as Greek and Armenian, was still allowed.

If I am not mistaken, Kurdish (or the Kurdish languages) was written in the Sorani alphabet at the time. The Sorani alphabet is derived from the Persian alphabet, which is itself derived from Arabic script. Based on this, I assume that the prohibition legislated by Sultan Bayezid II also applied to Mem and Zin. Wikipedia points out that it wasn't until 1727 that

Sultan Achmed III gave his permission for the establishment of the first legal print house for printing secular works by Muslims in Arabic script (Islamic religious publications still remained forbidden), but printing activities did not really take off until the 19th century.

Based on this, it is far from obvious that Mem and Zin would have appeared in print before 1727, or even before the beginning of the 19th century. So when was the work first printed?

1 Answer 1


Martin van Bruinessen, 'Ehmedî Xanî's Mem û Zîn and its role in the emergence of Kurdish nationalism' (PDF):

The appearance of the first Kurdish journal, Kurdistan, was such an important moment. Miqdad Midhat Bedirkhan, who published the first issues in Cairo in 1898 [...] In the second and following issues of Kurdistan he published sections from Mem û Zîn to show that literature of high quality can be written in Kurdish

Miqdad Midhat announced his intention to publish the entire text of Mem û Zîn as a book, but he never got the opportunity to do this. The first complete edition is associated with the next phase in the Kurdish movement [...] Following the ceasefire of 1918 and the occupation of Istanbul by the British and French, Kurdish aristocrats and intellectuals established the nationalist association, Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti. This association had several affiliated organizations, one of which was the Kürd Tamim-i Maarif ve Neşriyat Cemiyeti, which took care of educational and publishing activities. The first book published by this association, in 1919, was Ehmedê Xanî's Mem û Zîn

So 1919 it is.

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