May 12, 2017
Turkish police confiscate 2,170 books from Belge Publishing House
by Simon Reichley
This past Saturday, Turkish authorities launched a nighttime raid on the offices of Belge Yayinlari in Istanbul. According to a report in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator and other outlets, officers confiscated more than 2,000 books, prevented employees from leaving the premises, and detained Mehmet Ali Varis, an editor at the press.
The raid was launched in response to alleged connections between the publishing house and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party / Front (DHKP/C), a Marxist-Leninist political party and military insurgency, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States.
Ragıp Zarakolu—the founder and publisher of Belge Yayınları—has long been persecuted by the Turkish state for publishing books that address the Armenian genocide, translations of Greek literature, and the experiences of ethnic and religious minorities (including Jews and Kurds) in Turkey. Along with his wife and co-founder Ayse Nur, Zarakolu was jailed several times int he seventies for his writing and his affiliation with various human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Association of Turkey, and has continued to be harassed, monitored, and prosecuted by the Turkish state. He has been arrested and tried for various crimes against the state seven times since 2002. Charges included disseminating separatist propaganda, making propaganda for an illegal organization, insulting the memory of Kemal Atatürk, and criticizing members of the Turkish military. In 2012, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This most recent assault comes in the midst of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brutal, nearly unprecedented crackdown on dissident voices and political apostates in (and outside of) Turkey. In the week following the Belge raid, two Turkish citizens suspected of affiliation with Gülen (a Islamic sect blamed by the Turkish government for the attempted coup in 2016), died during police raids, and dozens of dissident writers, teachers and politicians were detained across the country.
Simon Reichley is assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House.