Turkey’s prisons abound with writers, intellectuals and academics, a direct contradiction to the country’s desire to become a model for the Middle East, said Swedish Parliamentarian Armineh Kakabaveh, who recently nominated arrested journalist Ragıp Zarakolu for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I am greatly honored to nominate Zarakolu for this prize. I hope the Nobel Committee accepts Zarakolu’s candidacy,” said Kakabaveh, one of five Swedish deputies who recently filed a formal appeal with the Norwegian Nobel Committee to nominate Zarakolu, a Turkish writer, journalist and publisher who has remained behind bars since Nov. 1, 2011, on terrorism-related charges.
“As far as we know, no one has had access yet to the [indictment] file, including Ragıp’s lawyer. He [has remained] behind bars for more than three months already. What kind of rule of law is this? Turkey should free Zarakolu and all the journalists, writers and intellectuals who have not advocated violence,” said Bjorn Smith-Simeonsen, the head of the Freedom to Publish Committee of the Geneva-based International Publishing Association (IPA), which has vigorously campaigned for Zarakolu’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Zarakolu’s nomination also comes amid an ongoing debate in Sweden over the criteria employed to select the winner of the coveted prize which some say has strayed from the procedures prescribed by Alfred Nobel, the founder of the prize, in his will. Critics have argued the Nobel Peace Prize has transformed into an award for democracy and women’s rights, in contrast with its original purpose to merely promote disarmament.
“Ragıp Zarakolu is an internationally recognized defender of the right to write and publish freely. It is essential not to confuse the efforts of those who, like Ragıp Zarakolu, have worked to bring down the barriers of censorship in Turkey with those who press political agendas through violence,” Smith-Simeonsen added.
Zarakolu was arrested Nov. 1, 2011 by order of the court over his alleged links to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“It is incredible that Zarakolu was treated as a terrorist and imprisoned. He strived for human rights, the freedom of thought and Turkey’s democratization for his entire life,” eminent Norwegian author Eugene Schoulgin said.