By Hambersom Aghbashian
Recep Maraşli (the son of a Kurdish father and a Turkish mother, born 1956 in Erzurum-Turkey), is a journalist, writer, author, publisher and political activist. He was detained during the 1980’s in the Diyarbekir prison, infamous for the brutal torture of political prisoners. (He was arrested for the first time at the age of 17 and spent 16 months in prison). Upon his release, he founded the “Komal” publishing house, where he published works on the history and situation of the Kurds. Turkish authorities closed his publishing house several times. In total, Recep Maraşli was detained in Turkish prisons for more than 15 years. Maraşli and his future wife Nuran, a journalist were both in a prison in Diyarbakir in 1985. Once again in freedom, they met and married. In 1999 Recep Maraşli fled from Turkey to Germany, and Nuran managed to follow a year later together with their little son. Maraşli published a book on the history of the Armenians in 2008, “The Armenian National Democratic Movement and the 1915 Genocide,” and now lives with his family in Berlin. Next to his work as an author, he is also active as an artist and graphic designer; and his wife Nuran Maraşli works as an intercultural assistant.
According to “The Ukrainian Weekly, May 31, 1998“, “The Vasyl Stus Freedom-to-Write Award has been inaugurated to recognize an international writer who has been imprisoned for the peaceful expression of his or her views, and whose courage in the face of censorship and oppression has been exemplary. The award is named in honor of Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus, who was the last Ukrainian writer to die in the Soviet gulag. The first recipient of the Vasyl Stus Award, is Recep Maraşli, who has suffered a long history of persecution, censorship and imprisonment in Turkey, and has a long list of detentions. Mr. Maraşli has written extensively about Kurdish and Armenian issues. (1)
In her long article “Critical Interventions: Kurdish Intellectuals Confronting the Armenian Genocide” (The Armenian weekly – April 29, 2009), Bilgin Ayata wrote, “A number of Kurdish intellectuals and activists articulated their objections to the use of the term Great Catastrophe in the apology campaign (released in 2004 in Turkey- HA) with a joint declaration that stated “It’s not a catastrophe, but genocide—this is the entire matter at heart,” a dozen Kurdish intellectuals and activists sharply criticized the failure of not calling the events genocide. One key figure behind both the Dialogue and Solidarity with the Victims of Genocide initiative of 2004 and the declaration “Great Catastrophe or Genocide?” is the Kurdish publisher Recep Maraşli. “Maraşli forcefully argues that ‘genocide is not a matter of documentation forgery’ (evrak sahtekarligi), and criticizes the ongoing debate about archives and documents in order to find a proof.” (2)
Ayse Gunaysu, a contributor to the same Weekly, wrote the following in November 8, 2009, in her article headlined “ Kurdish MP challenges Turkish Parliament on Armenian Genocide,” “ Speaking about the Kurdish intellectuals and activists who first talked and wrote about the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, I have to mention the book of Recep Maraşli, who was one of the victims of the horrible tortures at Diyarbakir Prison in the 1980’s and who served 15 years in various prisons. In the preface to his book (Ermeni Ulusal Demokratik Hareketive 1915 Soykirimi), Maraşli writes how he first wrote about the Armenian Genocide in 1982, when he was in the Alemdag Prison. It was the first and worst years of the military rule.(ASALA also was active). During these days, Recep Maraşli with a number of his fellow prisoners secretly prepared and circulated a pamphlet about the Armenian Genocide in the Alemdag Prison. He thinks it may well be the first structured writing about the Armenian Genocide in Kurdish circles. Some of the inmates thought that Maraşli was of Armenian origin.(3)
According to “http://www.kurdishaspect.com” Recep Maraşli and Dr. Choman Hardiwas, were the speakers at a “Seminar on Nationalism and Genocide: The Case of Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide” which was chaired by Dr. Surhan Cam of Cardiff University and was organized by Kurdish Studies and Students Organisation and the Kurdish Society at SOAS, on 22nd April 2010, at KLT, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. (4)
According to “http://news.am”, May 3, 2010, “Recep Maraşli, a renowned Kurdish public figure and historian, told at the conference organized by Armenian democrats of Belgium that ‘Germany is partially guilty in perpetration of Armenian Genocide in 1915,’ and added ‘Germany was closely cooperating with Young Turks then. While planning genocide, they got major support from Germany. Germany could not be unaware of the preplanned genocide.’ A passage from his book about the Armenian Genocide reads: ‘Massacre perpetrated by Turkey against Armenians is genocide and Turkish government is in charge of it. It is an undisputable fact. Genocide recognizes no motivations. Genocide, perpetrated against Armenians is the major crime against humanity and it should be condemned.’” (5)
“Armenian Genocide Research Center” wrote on May 6, 2010, about “Ankara Symposium on Genocide, Consequences” which was held on April 24, 2015, in Ankara. The Symposium was attended by many Turkish intellectuals, who had the chance to express their opinions. Among them were Sait Cetinoglu, Fikret Baskaya, Baskin Oran, Adil Okay, Ismail Besikci, Ragip Zarakolu, Henry Theriault, Eilian Williams, Recep Maraşli and others.
Recep Maraşli discussed the role of the Kurds in the Armenian Genocide. Even though the Kurds did not participate in the planning and decision-making process, he said, they were not mere collaborators, but part of a strategic alliance with the genocide committers. (6)
On 25 January 2011, “hayastaninfo.net,” quoted Pervin Buldan, a member of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party from Igdir, addressing Turkish parliament members, she said “Rafael Lemkin says genocide is not only about the extermination of the representatives of a nation but also annihilation of its cultural and national values. Today, of the 913 Armenian monuments remaining after 1923, 464 have been totally destroyed, 252 left to a state of dilapidation, and 197 in urgent need of restoration. Many of the Armenian religious buildings are being used as stables or storehouses, and many others have been turned into mosques.” She continued and mentioned that “The Kurds were the first who publicly recognized the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide of 1915-16, long before Turkish intellectuals and Recep Maraşli, a Kurdish intellectual, writer, and political activist, was the first. (7)
According to “Public Radio of Armenia”, February 15, 2013, “ Recep Maraşli is also a member of the Frankfurt-based organization struggling against genocides. Members of the organization visit Armenia every year on April 24 to pay tribute to the memory of the Armenian Genocide victims. Marasli told reporters in Yerevan “Turkey will not recognize the Armenian Genocide before 2015, as it is aware the issue is political, and the consequences may be very serious, and Ankara is wary of this.” The radio added that “According to Marasli, the issue of the Armenian genocide has become a topic of discussion in Turkey after Hrant Dink’s assassination. Turkish intellectuals, NGOs and the youth are interested in the issue and are ready to face it. (8)
On March 5, 2015, “artsakhpress.am” wrote, “As part of the commemorations of the Armenian Genocide centenary, an exhibition entitled “My Beloved Brothers, Armenians in Turkey 100 Years Ago”, portraying the lives of Ottoman-Armenians, was recently held in the Alevi Center of Hamburg (Germany). The cultural event was organized by the well known Turkish writer Osman Koker. A debate held on the exhibition’s last day was attended by Wolfgang Goust, a journalist who worked for 25 years for the German exhibition Spiegel, and Martin Dolzer, an ethnic Turkish parliament member from Hamburg and many other intelectuls. Turkish writer Recep Maraşli said many Armenian churches on Turkey’s territory are now used as mosques. “Apologizing is not enough; [descendents of the perpetrators] ought to be ashamed,” he said, adding that the grandchildren and grand-grand-children of the genocide orchestrators and perpetrators have not abandoned the wealth accumulated illegally by their ancestors. (9)
On April 23, 2015, Recep Maraşli was hosted in Armenia by “Western Armenia” state owned TV Chanel, and during the interview that was translated by Sarkis Hatspanian, he mentioned that the first time he seriously was interested in the Armenian genocide was in 1981, in the prison, while (ASALA) was an active organization and his friends started talking about the Armenian Genocide. Later on, during his imprisonment period in those years in Turkey, he was more interested and it took him four years to study the Armenia Genocide issue. According to him, he had mentioned about the Armenian Genocide in the court during his trial in 1985 and that was the first time where this issue was publicly spoken about. He published his book “The Armenian National Democratic Movement and the 1915 Genocide,” in 2008, (650 page- in Turkish), the 4th edition of it will be published in1915. (10)
According to “Public Radio of Armenia” , April 27, 2015, “ Members of the Frankfurt-based “Union Against Genocide” and the Berlin-based “Support for Genocide Victims”, Turkish organization visited the Stepanakert Memorial, Gandzasar and other places of interest and had meetings with the leaders and journalists in Artsakh.” “On a first visit to Artsakh, the Turk visitors were aware that they will be blacklisted by Azerbaijan, but were not worried about it. Recep Maraşli considered that being included in Azerbaijan’s “black list” should be treated as an honor, and added that he and Ali Erdem, another member of the organization are ‘Personae Non Grata’ in Turkey, as well. Years ago they fled Turkey to survive. At Stepanakert memorial, the Turkish activists paid tribute to the memory of the Armenian Genocide victims and visited the graves of the freedom fighters. According to Maraşli, the struggle of Artsakh is a just cause. They pledged to raise the issue in Europe upon their return. (11)