[Reader-list] Ayse Nur Zarakoglu, Turkish sociologist and publisher, Obit.

Patrice Riemens patrice at xs4all.nl
Wed Feb 13 16:46:09 IST 2002

Ayse Nur Zarakoglu (1946-2002)

Turkish intellectual Ayse Nur Zarakoglu passed away on January 28, 2002, 
at the Istanbul Capa Medical School Hospital, from cancer. She was 56.

Trained  as sociologist, Ayse Nur had started the 'Bilge' (Turkish for 
'document') Publishing House in 1977. It was well-known in Turkey and 
abroad for its publications on minorities. Going against the interdicts of 
the Kemalist republic, Ayse Nur, together with her husband Ragip, bought, 
with limited means, numerous works to the public regarding the Turkish 
left and about the plight of the Kurdish and Armenian people. The 
publication in 1994, of the Turkish translation of Yves Ternon, "The 
Armenians, Story of a Genocide" (Turkish title: "The Armenian Taboo"), 
caused Ayse Nur's indictment before the State Security Court, which 
declared her guilty one year later of  "incitation to separatism". She 
avoided prison in the end, but the book was - and is still - banned, and 
Bilge's offices were fire-bombed.

Ayse and her husband then moved their stock of books in a cellar in 
Istanbul's old Sultan Ahmet neighbourhood (the backpackers hang-out, tr.) 
and tranquilly went on with publishing. As founders of the Turkish Human 
Rights Association, they had seen worse things: between 1982 and 1995, 
Ayse Nur was indicted thirty times and went to prison in four cases.

She spent four month in prison - without any formal charges - in 1982 
because of the publication of an academic study on the Turkish left 
the early twentieth century. Condemned in 1990 to six month imprisonment 
for having published a book by the sociologist of Kurdish origin Ismail 
Besiksi - himself condemned to a hundred years plus for his writings - she 
decided, just out of prison, to publish nonetheless a further three books 
by the banned sociologist. There follows a new condemnation in 1993, for 
the publication of a journalistic enquiry on the excesses committed by the 
army in Kurdistan under the title "Anatomy of a Crime". Its author, a 
Turkish journalist, dies in custody.

Yet the couple's stuborness in publishing allegedly 'subversive' texts 
payed of in the end: after endless legal battles, "Genocide", by the 
American academic Vahak Dadrian, is authorised for publications, while the 
publishing of a Turkish translation of Franz Werfels' "The Forty Days on 
the Musa Dagh" - on the Armenian resistance during the 1915 genocide, 
still officially denied by the Turkish authorities - for once did not 
cause them any untoward harassment. Being ever often invited for talks in 
Europe, among other by the 'Center for Research on the Armenian Diaspora" 
(CRDA) in Paris, an association that endeavours to bring about both the 
recognition of the genocide and a reconciliation between the Armenian and 
Turkish peoples, Ayse and Ragip see also a diminution of the number of 
threats, administrative harassments, arbitrary arrests and incarcerations. 
In 1998, the International Publishers Association confers to Ayse its 
Liberty Prize.

But it came too late by then. Her last battle was already on,  against 
illness. At the occasion of her burial on January 30 in Istanbul, her 
life-long struggle for justice was mentioned in passing by the official 
media, but her funerary cortege, followed by thousands of mourners, was 
also 'accompanied' by a twenty-some vans of the riot police

Obituary by Marie Jego, in Le Monde, February 12, 2002.
Q&D translation by yrs truly.

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