It was via friends in the media last week that Ragıp Zarakolu, who has been living in Sweden for a few years, heard that he was on the list of people of whom Turkey demands that Sweden extradites to Turkey. “I was angry when I heard it”, he told Medya News. “It is harassment, for me and for the other people on the list. Turkey will keep using this issue as a bargaining chip.”
Ragıp Zarakolu is a long time defender of human rights, both as a publisher and an author. Born in Turkey in 1948, he has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the position of marginalised groups in Turkey and about the dark pages in Turkey’s history. He has been repeatedly prosecuted for books he wrote and books he published about topics such as the Armenian and Assyrian genocides, the position of Jews in Turkey and about the suppression of Kurds. He has spent several periods of time in jail.
He was angry when he heard he was on the ‘wanted’ list, but he also laughed about it. Zarakolu: “Turkey already requested my extradition two years ago and then the Swedish authorities saw no reason to comply. What Turkey accused me of is not a criminal offence in Sweden.” He got up and got a book from his shelves written by one of the other people on the ‘wanted’ list: the book ‘Barzani’, about the late Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, written by Siraç Bilgin. Zarakolu: “The author passed away in 2015.” Of another person on the list, Zarakolu said she lived in Paris, not in Sweden.
There is anxiety about these developments in the Kurdish community in Sweden, Zarakolu said, but he doesn’t think there is much reason for it, even though some asylum seekers are worried they may be used to satisfy Turkey and end up in Turkish jails. “The Swedish authorities will keep looking at extradition requests fairly”, he said. Also the terrorism law that Sweden adopted in 2020 doesn’t worry him: “This was introduced to fight islamic extremism better, which is a bigger threat for Sweden.”
Zarakolu thinks the international community should approach Turkey and President Erdoğan differently. About Sweden’s attitude during the negotiations, he said: “They tried to convince Turkey that it is really not supporting terrorists, but for Turkey, this is a game, a bargaining, and Erdoğan knows how to play it unfortunately. Sweden should not defend itself like that, it doesn’t help because Erdoğan only wants some gains.”
He points to the fact that Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe (CoE) after the invasion of Ukraine (although Russia said it left voluntarily), and that in the past the CoE investigated human rights abuses in the country, causing Greece to leave the CoE before it could be expelled. Zarakolu: “When the US makes a strong statement, Erdoğan accepts what needs to be done. This is a better approach.”
Please listen to the whole podcast for full interview.