No announcement yet.

Scholar Ragip Zarakolu Could Face Jail Time

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Scholar Ragip Zarakolu Could Face Jail Time

    By Fred Ortega, News-Press and Leader

    Glendale News Press, CA
    April 24 2006

    Publisher who acknowledges Armenian Genocide could be punished back
    in Turkey.

    When Turkish scholar and publisher Ragip Zarakolu returns home from
    his visit to the United States, he could be facing some serious jail
    time -- all because he has written about a subject that many countries
    consider a historical fact.

    But Zarakolu, who was in Glendale over the weekend and spoke at
    several Armenian Genocide memorial events, takes it all in stride. As
    director of Belge International Publishers in Istanbul, he has been
    engaged in an ongoing battle with the Turkish government for more
    than 30 years, mainly because he has continued to publish and research
    what he considers to be an essential truth: his country's history of
    injustices and atrocities against minorities including the Armenians,
    Greeks and Kurds.

    His latest books, two volumes about the Armenian Genocide, have
    been labeled as "insulting and undermining the state" by Turkish
    authorities. If convicted, he could face six years in prison. The
    Turkish government to this day denies the genocide took place,
    a position that has been condemned by many countries in the world
    -- but not in the United States, where the government has yet to
    officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.

    It would not be the first time Zarakolu goes to jail for his
    convictions. In 1971, a military junta imprisoned him for three years
    because of previous works he had published. Both he and his late wife,
    Ayse Nur, were jailed by the Turkish government, and their publishing
    offices were firebombed by right-wing groups.

    But it is all worth it to Zarakolu, who sees his actions as simply
    his duty to his fellow man. He described his efforts to expose what he
    characterized as Turkey's past atrocities as benefiting both those who
    suffered under them, the Armenians, as well as the Turks themselves.

    "We Turks must accept the Armenian Genocide took place in order
    to build a true democratic country that provides the opportunity
    for different cultures and beliefs to coexist," said Zarakolu, who
    has worked with Amnesty International on human rights issues in his
    country since the 1970s and is a founding member of the Turkish Human
    Rights Assn. "We must do this for Armenians, but also for ourselves,
    for new generations and to prevent future tragedies."

    Zarakolu lived side-by-side with members of Turkey's minority
    populations at an early age. Growing up on the Prince Islands near
    Istanbul, he said many of his Turkish family's friends were Greeks,
    Jews and Armenians.

    But even in a seemingly tolerant society, no one openly talked about
    the horrors of the past, he said.

    "It was a silent period, and both sides did not want to speak of it to
    save the children from bad memories," said Zarakolu, who nonetheless
    learned of the Armenian Genocide from his mother, who witnessed some
    of the horrors first hand. His grandmother had even taken in Armenian
    orphans in an effort to save them from extermination.

    With the seed of the reality of the genocide planted in his head by
    his mother, Zarakolu went on to Istanbul to study. There, he witnessed
    a pogrom against Greek residents of the city and other minorities,
    an event that further increased his resolve to speak out in favor of
    his fellow countrymen, Turkish or otherwise.

    The military coups in Turkey of the 1970s and 1980s helped remind
    the people of the horrors committed in the past, he said.

    "It raised empathy among the people," he said. "At that time I began to
    focus on studying the Armenian Genocide, and I had to conduct research
    outside of the country because of the government's censorship [and]
    I could not find any documentation in Turkey."

    Zarakolu, who is wrapping up his tour of the United States courtesy
    of the Organization of Istanbul Armenians Cultural Committee, has
    impressed many with his ongoing efforts on behalf of his country's
    minorities. Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian called him nothing less
    than a hero.

    "He is one of the most courageous men I can think of," Najarian said.

    "Even in the face of hostility and incarceration at home, the fact
    that he is not afraid to call what happened in 1915 a genocide makes
    him one of the true heroes of the Armenian people."

    Former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian, who interviewed Zarakolu during
    a special airing of his weekly show "The Larry Zarian Forum," said
    Zarakolu's actions were humbling and an example to all of humanity.

    "This is bravery on the part of someone who doesn't have to do this,
    someone who can remain silent like many in his country and throughout
    the world, and sell books and live a happy life," said Zarian, whose
    mother was a genocide survivor and who died before seeing the Turkish
    government own up to the atrocities, her lifelong dream.

    "This is someone who is committed to what is right, who is willing to
    put his life on the line for the truth, and how can you thank someone
    for that?" Zarian added.