Turkey court bans book 'History of Kurdistan,' 18 years later, again

Courts in Turkey previously banned nine other books on the Kurdish freedom movement, Kurdistan, and Ezidi faith.
author_image Ari Khalidi

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A court in Turkey banned the Turkish language translation of “the History of Kurdistan,” a book by the Russian National Academy of Sciences, for the second time in two decades since its publication, the editor of Kurdish publishing house Avesta told Kurdistan 24 on Monday.

Avesta’s editor and owner Abdullah Keskin said he did not know the reason yet because he learned of the ruling from a duo of police officers who came to his office to inquire about 11 books, including the one banned on the instructions of an Istanbul public prosecutor.

“When they came, they presented us a document by a court in Ayvalik that ruled the outlawing of the publishing and selling of the book back in January, which is some seven months ago. It turned out to be a decision the authorities did not tell us of in this period,” Keskin said.

Ayvalik is a resort town in the Aegean province of Balikesir where the publisher speculated the book could be found only at a student house.

“They probably raided some house and upon finding the book with the name Kurdistan, deemed it outlawed,” he went on, reminding of the reasons behind previous bans in recent years.

He added that the document mentioned no specific reason.

“Police coming to Avesta and asking about what books they find suspicious... Such visits never occurred before,” he said. “By the law, state authorities already have the information and content of whatever publication we release.”

He believed the move was purely arbitrary, resulting from the current political climate that is increasingly becoming anti-Kurdish as the Turkish administration continues to suppress Kurdish demands at home and fights against self-rule attempts in neighboring countries.

Avesta’s Turkish translation of the History of Kurdistan, a comprehensive, authoritative source penned by the late Russian historian M. S. Lazarev and Khudaye Mihoyan, was first banned and confiscated in 2000 by a then-existing State Security Court, a judicial branch tasked with looking into “crimes against the state.”

The ban, though, was later lifted after a lengthy judicial process, and the book could be reprinted four more times.

Keskin denounced the second ban after 18 years, saying a Kurdish translation too was ready and he would proceed with publishing that one.

“It is now obligatory [to release], because of the ban,” he tweeted.

CHP's outspoken Kurdish MP Sezgin Tanrikulu poses with a copy of
CHP's outspoken Kurdish MP Sezgin Tanrikulu poses with a copy of "the History of Kurdistan" at Avesta Publishing House, Istanbul, July 27, 2018. (Photo: Avesta)

Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker, and an outspoken human rights lawyer, Sezgin Tanrikulu paid a visit last week to Avesta in solidarity and posed with a copy of the book in front of cameras.

“It is not surprising that there are those who cannot tolerate the existence of Kurds in today’s Turkey where even thinking is unlawfully penalized. Confiscating a book is primitive, it does not go along with democracy. Kurds exist since antique ages, and they shall continue to exist,” he tweeted after meeting with Keskin.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Meral Danis Bestas condemned the act in a parliamentary question.

She asked the Speaker to answer if the newly-introduced executive presidential system of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was intent on making the Kurdish history forgotten.

Avesta has recently come under intense state pressure through outlawing of its books.

In May, the publishing house revealed that Turkey banned nine books ranging from genocides against the Kurds, the late Kurdish liberation movement leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani, and the Republic of Kurdistan in Mahabad to the sacred texts of Ezidis.

“They want to break our back. Once a book is announced illegal, distributors stop shipping that book; bookstores and websites take it out of their shelves,” Keskin said.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany