Winners of Ayşenur Zarakolu Freedom of Thought and Expression Award announced

The winners of the Ayşenur Zarakolu Freedom of Thought and Expression Award were journalists Çiğdem Toker, Metin Cihan and Şano Ar Theater Art Group.

The 22nd Ayşenur Zarakolu Freedom of Thought and Expression Award Ceremony was held at the IHD association building in Beyoğlu. The award is organized in partnership with the Human Rights Association (IHD) Istanbul Branch and the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV).

In addition to rights defenders, artists, politicians and journalists, legal and women's organizations also attended the ceremony, which started with a video about the famous rights defender Ayşenur Zarakolu. Speaking at the ceremony, IHD Istanbul Branch President Gülseren Yoleri said that we are witnessing a period of bans all over the world. Stating that even a social media post in Turkey is grounds for detention and arrest, Yoleri said: "It is necessary to make the struggle stronger, both at local and international level. But we also see that our struggle for human rights is often suppressed. However, we need to expand our struggle."

'There is an official ideology in the country'

IHD co-chair Eren Keskin said: "When it is said somewhere that 'freedom of expression is banned', it is necessary to look at what is prohibited." Stating that there is an official ideology in Turkey, Keskin said: "We are talking about a republic that was founded on a genocide and was established by the mentality that committed this genocide. We are talking about a republic based on a monist, destructive identity. It's very difficult to talk about these things. Ayşe was someone who spoke about this in the 1990s. She spoke and published her books. That's why, for example, she was tried for a book she wrote on the Armenian Genocide. Moreover, Ayşe had the courage to publish a book like 'Kurdistan, an international colony' written by Ismail Beşikçi. It was not easy to publish such a book while people were being massacred and villages were being burned by the counter-guerrillas. Why is there an award in her name regarding freedom of expression? Because she said and wrote these things."

Sinan Zarakolu read the message his mother Ayşe Zarakolu sent to the "Freedom to Publish Award" ceremony held in Germany, where she received the award in 1998.

At the ceremony, T24 writer journalist Çiğdem Toker was thanked for "defending the public's right to learn the truth, the freedom to receive and report news to the end", journalist Metin Cihan for continuing his career despite being punished for his news. An award was given to the Şano Ar Theater Art Group, which continued to insist on saying "Bijî Şanoya Kurdî, Bijî Zimanê Kurdî" despite the bans and obstacles.