Turkish police break into Kurdish publishing house, seize thousands of books

Turkish police have broken into a publishing house by breaking the doors and confiscated up to 3,000 books as well as three computers in Diyarbakır on Thursday, according to a report by Kurdistan24.

Ulaş Güldiken, the editor-in-chief of Aram Publishing House, told Kurdistan24 over the phone that the raid began at around 6:00 a.m. local time and continued until 10:00 a.m. “The building’s doorman told us that about 30 to 35 policemen from the anti-terror unit arrived at the scene in armored vehicles,” the Diyarbakır-based Güldiken said. “When we went there accompanied by our lawyer we found out that the door was broken,” he added.

Ulaş Güldiken

Then, the lawyer contacted the chief Turkish prosecutor’s office, inquiring if there was a search warrant, the editor explained, but there was none. The raid appeared to be a continuation of a wide-ranging state crackdown on Kurdish cultural and linguistic institutions that gained pace after a  controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016. At least 85 books printed by Aram have been banned since then, Güldiken revealed.

In August 2017, a court placed a ban on 72 books during a single session of a trial against the publishers. Police then confiscated over 4,000 copies of the books. “They can ban a book, confiscate it from bookstores by law. However, the seizure of the books from our premises is totally illegal,” he said. Bookstores were threatened not to sell Aram’s publications, and books found in homes, prisons or with individuals could be dealt with by authorities as evidence of a crime, he continued.

When asked why his publishing house was not ordered to shut down by authorities in a similar manner done to others, the editor said he had no answer. “There is systematic pressure on us, increasing in the past two years. A prosecutor once told our lawyer that he would not seek to close it down but rather make it so difficult for us to work that it would be worse than a simple shutdown,” he added.

According to the report by Kurdistan24, Aram Publishing House has printed books on literature, sociology, history, and mythology among others in both the Kurdish and Turkish languages since 1998. It has also published translated works by American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, the late Edward Said, social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein, and the Kurdish author Musa Anter who was assassinated by Turkish paramilitary groups over two decades ago at the age of 72.

Güldiken said their lawyer would file a lawsuit against the police and separately seek an overturn of the ban on books at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Last year, fewer books in Kurdish came out, publishers point out, because of the risks involved and due to the political climate the country is descending in.

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