YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Ragip Zarakolu, a prominent Turkish human rights campaigner and book publisher, was honored by Armenia’s National Library on Tuesday for his long-running advocacy of Turkey’s recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
The director of the state-funded library, Davit Sargsian, paid tribute to Zarakolu’s decades-long activism as he presented a medal to the founder of the Istanbul-based Belge publishing house. Sargsian also thanked him for donating dozens of books to Armenia’s largest library.
“We are talking about an individual committed to the ideas of humanism,” Sargisian said at a ceremony in Yerevan. “Unfortunately, he does not have an easy life in modern-day Turkey because of his activities, principles and thinking.”
“This is the most important award of my life,” Zarakolu said in a short speech.
Zarakolu 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 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. It has since translated into Turkish more than a dozen books by Diaspora- Armenian authors challenging the official Turkish version of those events.