Ragip Zarakolu, a voice for free expression in Turkey, has been chosen as the 2012 recipient of the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award. Given by the Association of American Publishers’ International Freedom to Publish Committee (IFTPC), the award will be presented May 1 at the PEN Gala at the Museum of Natural History in New York.
Zarakolu founded the Belge Publishing House in 1977 with his late wife Ayse Nur and has defied Turkish censorship laws by translating and publishing editions of works by Armenian, Greek, Kurdish and other writers, often dealing with such forbidden subjects as the Armenian genocide and the repression of Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Among Belge’s titles is the Turkish edition of Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past by American poet and academic Peter Balakian, who will present the award on May 1.
Upon learning about the AAP honor, Zarakolu said: “Thank you for the very important prize and for your support for freedom to publish. I am pleased to accept this prize not only for myself but on the behalf of all the publishers, writers and journalists who remain in prison in Turkey. Although I have been released, I remain under the threat of re-arrest as the anti-democratic laws and unfair trials continue. The day I and 14 others were released, 14 more people were arrested. I was arrested with no reason given and after five months, I was released with no reason given. I am not a political activist. For nearly 40 years, I have been a publisher and a supporter of human rights.”