They are being arbitrarily held under anti-terrorism laws for peacefully upholding the human rights of the Kurdish people.
Ragip Zarakolu, who owns the Belge publishing house, has been judicially harassed for over 30 years by the Turkish authorities. The books Belge publishes often discuss either Kurdish human rights or the Armenian massacre of 1915 when over a million Armenians were slaughtered by the Ottoman Empire in one of the first modern genocides. To discuss either of these subjects is a criminal act in today's Turkey under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. This clearly breaches the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.
Ragıp Zarakolu is one of the founding members of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD). He is also Chair of the Freedom to Publish Committee of the Turkish Publishers Association (TYB). As such, he has been documenting and making public the numerous freedom to publish violations in Turkey and has been at the forefront of defending other publishers’ freedom to publish and other writers’ freedom to write, including those small Kurdish publishers and writers few people have shown interest in.
Ragıp Zarakolu embodies integrity, steadfastness and courage. He is a man full of humanity, full of passion, and love for the different cultures of Anatolia and beyond. He is a man whose quest for truth and reconciliation has been up to now unstoppable.
It is essential not to confuse the efforts of those who, like Ragip Zarakolu, have worked to bring down barriers of censorship in Turkey with those who press political agendas through violence.
The Zarakolus and Professor Busra demonstrate the increasing use of anti-terror legislation in Turkey to stifle freedom of expression. (One third of world convictions for terrorism have taken place in Turkey, more even than in China.) They are democrats and should not be treated as terrorists.
Ragip Zarakolu was awarded the NOVIB/PEN Free Expression Award in 2003 and the 2008 International Publishers Association (IPA) Freedom to Publish Prize. He has now been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
Bjørn Smith-Simonsen of the IPA Freedom to Publish committee says: 'The trial is likely to begin in a year's time only. Ragip Zarakolu's health is not good. We fear that he will not stand his detention conditions in the terrible F-type (high security) prisons.'
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