Prominent Turkish Publisher Gets Armenian State Award
Հրապարակված է՝ 29.05.2012
Ragip Zarakolu, a prominent Turkish human rights campaigner and book publisher, received an Armenian state award on Tuesday for what President Serzh Sarkisian called a “remarkable contribution” to international recognition of the 1915 Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Zarakolu was among more than two dozen mostly Armenian scientists, writers and artists chosen for annual presidential awards given by Sarkisian. He arrived in Armenia with his wife and daughter to accept the prize less than two months after being released from prison pending trial on controversial charges of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey.
“His activities have been an exceptional mission,” Sarkisian said at the awards ceremony held in the presidential palace in Yerevan. “His struggle for conveying historical truth to the Turkish society is a brilliant example of high civic stance and courage.”
“Your presence here and acceptance of this prize today is also an act of courage,” he told Zarakolu.
In his speech at the ceremony, Zarakolu reaffirmed his belief that the World War I-era mass killings and deportations of Armenians were a genocide that must be acknowledged by modern-day Turkey. “Turkey must accept historical truth,” he said. “Only in this way can Turkey regain its self-respect.”
“Even after Turkey apologizes and compensates [Armenians,] Armenians and Turks can’t be as before,” he said. “But we can look to the future together.”
Zarakolu, 63, rose to prominence in the 1970s as a newspaper columnist and editor highlighting human rights abuses committed in Turkey. He was twice imprisoned by military governments in Ankara before founding, together with other prominent Turks, the Human Rights Association of Turkey in 1986.
Around that time, Belge began publishing books on taboo subjects such as the Armenian genocide. Belge has since translated into Turkish more than a dozen books by Diaspora Armenian authors challenging the official Turkish version of the 1915 events.
At least two of those translations landed Zarakolu in court. A Turkish court ruled in June 2008 that the publication of one of those books insulted “the institutions of the Turkish Republic.” The publisher received a suspended five-month prison sentence.
Zarakolu was again arrested by the Turkish police in October last year for “knowingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” together with dozens of other Turks. If convicted, he will face up to 15 years in prison. The European Union and international human rights groups have expressed serious concern over the case.
Zarakolu was honored at the Armenian National Library during his previous trip to Yerevan in February 2011. Its director, Davit Sargsian, handed a medal to the publisher, praising his decades-long activism and thanking him for donating dozens of books to the state-funded library.
A Turkish Evocation of the Memory of the Armenian Genocide
A Turkish Evocation of the Memory of the Armenian Genocide
ISTANBUL-Ragip Zarakolu, as a member of the Turkish Human Rights Association, had attended the Auschwitz Conference on the three genocides of the 20th century-the Armenian, Jewish and Tutsi-which was held in December. The conference was a project of the Youth University created by the European Youth Forum and was financed by the European Union.
Upon his return to Turkey, Zarakolu published a long article--entitled "To Know How to Learn from History"--in the Turkish newspaper Ülkede Gündem. Zarakolu comments on the significance of the conference for the world in general and for Turkey in particular and reflects on the enormity of the crime of genocide by virtue of which "the compatriots of Mozart and Goethe committed against the compatriots of Heine and Mahler a crime against humanity." After noting how Europe and the West allowed hundreds of thousands of Tutsi to be literally slaughtered in Rwanda, Zarakolu focuses his attention on the victims of the Armenian genocide. In a subdued and subtle tone, he evokes the memory of the massacred Armenians as he describes the lethal installations of the Auschwitz death camp, and notes Prof. Vahakn Dadrian's presence at the conference.
Zarakolu writes, "How I wish that we too could show to our people, to our youth, one by one, those valleys, those narrow mountain passes, those rivers still groaning, those public squares, into which were driven the multitudes only to be unloaded unto the routes of 'deportation' (tehcir), all of these places still reverberating with the screams and cries of the victims."
Using more explicit language, Zarakolu rebukes his country, Turkey, "whose governments not only are not officially recognizing the genocide, but are able to exalt as 'heroes' (kahraman) the chief architects of this crime. During World War II the remains of Talaat were transferred to Turkey from Nazi Germany and were reburied with official ceremonies. Enver Pasha, who was directly responsible for the genocide, for the death of millions of Ottoman citizens, be they Armenian, Turks, or Kurds, was likewise brought to Turkey >from Central Asia by the state authorities and reburied." Zarakolu wonders whether it is conceivable to accord similar treatment to Hitler, Göring, or Goebbels.
In comparing the educational functions of the Youth University's Auschwitz Seminar with the rampant racism, fascism and nationalism of the Turkish youth, Zarakolu deplores the support the latter is receiving from the authorities of modern Turkey. He writes, "The Security organs of the State are buttressing the Gray Wolves and through the tolerance of the government, army and bureaucracy, fascism has been growing in Turkey in the last thirty years. Otherwise, how could in our days three million Kurds be uprooted with such ease from their homes and villages and be deported? We have to learn from history and avoid denying the past tragedies, which should cause shame in us. Otherwise, history is bound to repeat itself."