After facing years of legal harassments and imprisonment for publishing books and articles on minorities and human rights, Ragip Zarakolu arrived in his new safe haven in Sigtuna in 2014 to continue the fight for freedom of thought from the new stronghold.
Turkish writer and publisher Ragip Zarakolu, 2012 Nobel Prize nominee and iconic advocate for the freedom to publish and write in Turkey and beyond, arrived in Sigtuna as the city's first guest writer in December 2014. In spite of 40 years of censorship, harassment, death threats and imprisonments by the Turkish authorities and far right groups, Zarakolu has never given up his fight for freedom of thought and the necessity of minorities right to be heard.
Born in 1948 in Istanbul, Ragip grew up as a member of the Greek and Armenian minority in Turkey. He started writing for the magazines Ant and Yeni Ufuklar in 1968, and is the co-founder of the daily newspaper Demokrat, first published in 1979.
The first time Ragip was arrested was after the military coup in 1971, for an article in the magazine Ant. In 1977, Zarakolu and his wife Ayşe Nur established the publishing house "Belge Publishing" (Documents) that publishes books on politics, economics, philosophy and the cosmopolitan diversity of the region. They publish predominantly academic books and literature on and by minority populations in Turkey, in particular Kurdish writers. Most of the books are on the list of banned literature in the country.
Ragıp is a founding member of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD). He is also the chairperson of the Freedom to Publish Committee of the Turkish Publishers Association (TPA/TYB). For some time Ragıp Zarakolu also chaired the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN in Turkey, ICORN’s closest partner.
On 28 October 2011, Ragıp Zarakolu was arrested on his way home, as part of a larger crackdown initiated in 2009 and still on-going against Kurdish political parties. He was held on pre-trial detention between 1 November 2011 and 10 April 2012 under Turkish Anti-Terror Legislation (ATL) for belonging to an illegal organisation. Released from prison, pending trial, he is risking being sentenced to and spending another 15 years in prison if the prosecutors’ demands are met.
Zarakolu has published several books on the Armenian Genocide, such as George Jerjian’ s The Truth Will Set Us Free: Armenians and Turks Reconciled and Professor Dora Sakayan's An Armenian Doctor in Turkey: Garabed Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922. In November 2007 Zarakolu published David Gaunt's book "Massacres, resistance, protectors" about the Assyrian Genocide in Turkish. All of them brought him new criminal charges.
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