By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN, Germany — No matter how meaningful it is that political institutions, whether governments or parliaments, have recognized the Armenian genocide, the most important such acknowledgement must be an act of the relevant institutions in Turkey. In this context, among the many commemorations that will take place next year in cities across the globe, it is what happens in Turkey that will be particularly telling. Ragip Zarakolu, the courageous Turkish publisher and human rights activist, chose to dedicate his remarks at an event in Berlin honoring him, precisely to this theme. On November 30, he was officially named as an honorary member of the Working Group Recognition — against Genocide, for International Understanding (AGA: Arbeitsgruppe Anerkennung — Gegen Genozid, für Völkerverständigung).
As Tessa Hofmann, chairwoman of AGA and a genocide researcher, explained in her introductory remarks, her association has honored public figures who have “pursued the aims of the organization in an outstanding manner.” In many cases this involves personal risk. “For a member of a state,” she went on, “whose leadership since the founding of the republic has stubbornly denied that the massacres and deportations of over 3 million Christians was genocide, to work through and process this incriminating history is by no means self-evident.” Among those who have met with persecution for having done so, like Taner Akçam, are Ragip Zarakolu and his late wife Aysenur, founder of the “Belge” (“Document”) publishing house in 1977. By making Turkish translations of works from Greek, English and German available, especially on the Armenian genocide, it was “the first Turkish publisher to break through the state’s monopoly on the interpretation of history and contributed fundamentally to removing the taboos on the transformation period in the first half of the 20th century.” In addition to his work at “Belge,” Zarakolu has been a leading human rights activist since 1968, a co-founder of Insan Haklar Derneg (IHD) and has been jailed 3 times, most recently in 2011 for his work. Neither imprisonment nor the bombing of his publishing house in 1996 have deterred him and over recent years he has received honors for his civil courage, including the prize of the President of the Republic of Armenia in 2012.
‘First Commemorative Event Took Place in Istanbul’