MAHWAH, N.J.—In commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies will host a conversation between Ragip Zarakolu and Nanore Barsoumian on “The Denial Industry in Turkey.” The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at Ramapo College of New Jersey (Trustees Pavilion, PAV1&2) in Mahwah on May 7 at 7:30 p.m.
The discussion will explore the web of deception, distortion, and intimidation that has characterized official and unofficial perennial Turkish efforts to discredit the truth about how the Ottoman Empire’s “Young Turk” regime in the years 1915-17 engaged in a systematic and organized campaign to eliminate the Armenian population of Turkey.
The director and owner of Belge Publishing House, Ragip Zarakolu, has been subjected to a lifetime of harassment from Turkish authorities. After graduating college in 1968, Zarakolu began writing for magazines such as “Ant” and “Yeni Ufuklar,” both of which focused on issues of social justice in Turkey. In 1971, a military government assumed power in Turkey and instituted a crackdown on writers it deemed subversive. Following a conviction and a three-year prison sentence, Zarakolu steadfastly refused to abandon his campaign for freedom of thought, striving for an “attitude of respect for different thoughts and cultures to become widespread in Turkey.”
Eventually, Zarakolu turned his attention to Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, beginning in 2004 with his publication of the Turkish translation of British author George Jerjian’s book, The Truth Will Set Us Free: Armenians and Turks Reconciled. He was immediately prosecuted under Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code, which made it illegal to “insult or belittle” various state institutions. That article was replaced in March 2005 with the now-infamous Article 301, a new version of the insult law that conservative prosecutors have since used against dozens of writers, journalists, and publishers in Turkey.
Having been acquitted for the publication of several similar titles, in June 2008 Zarakolu was convicted of “insulting the state” under Article 301 for publishing Jerjian’s book. He was sentenced to a five-month prison term, which was subsequently commuted to a fine. He is appealing the conviction.
Nanore Barsoumian is the editor of the Armenian Weekly. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk, and Turkey.
For more information, visit the Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at www.ramapo.edu/holocaust or call (201) 684.7409 to reserve a seat for the event.
Ramapo College of New Jersey is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as sixth in the Best Regional Universities North category for public institutions. It is sometimes viewed as a private college. This is, in part, due to its unique interdisciplinary academic structure, its size of approximately 6,000 students, and its pastoral setting in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains on the New Jersey/New York border.
Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include nursing and social work. In addition, Ramapo College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels. The college also offers eight graduate programs as well as articulated programs with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New York Chiropractic College, New York University College of Dentistry, SUNY State College of Optometry, and New York College of Podiatric Medicine.