Sunday, May 22, 2022

Ragıp Zarakolu

Ragıp Zarakolu (1948) is a Turkish human rights activist and publisher who has long faced legal harassment for publishing books on controversial subjects in Turkey, especially on minority and human rights in Turkey.

Under the military junta Ragıp Zarakolu was tried on charges of secret relations to Amnesty International and spent five months in prison, before the charges were dropped. In 1972 Ragıp Zarakolu was sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment for his article in the journal Ant (Pledge) on Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnam War. On his release Zarakolu refused to abandon his campaign for freedom of thought, striving for an "attitude of respect for different thoughts and cultures to become widespread in Turkey".

The Belge Publishing House, established in Istanbul in 1977 by Zarakolu and his wife Ayşenur, has been a focus for Turkish censorship laws ever since. Charges brought against the couple resulted in imprisonment for both Ayşenur and Ragıp Zarakolu, the wholesale confiscation and destruction of books and the imposition of heavy fines.

In 1995 the Belge Publishing House offices were firebombed by a far right group, forcing it to be housed in a cellar.

In May 2017 the Belge Publishing House was raided by police who said they had orders to seize all copies of the book Stateless Kurds and Decisions Tougher than Death. Police also seized hundreds of books published in the 1980s and 1990s, despite having no orders to do so.

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