Sunday, January 09, 2011

Remembering a Murdered Editor

HRANT DINK, murdered four years ago in Istanbul. His enemies remain at large.
But his viewpoint continues to inspire.

THE lawyer for a Turkish editor gunned down in front of his newspaper four years ago says those who planned the murder may never be caught.

A teenage gunman and his accomplice are facing trial for the killing of Hrant Dink, who edited a Turkish-Armenian bilingual newspaper. But a stir was caused by the publication of a photograph of the accused youth with smiling policemen in front of a Turkish flag.

Interviewed by the daily Al Hurriyet, lawyer Cetin, who says she was with Hrant Dink when he was found guilty of insulting "Turkishness", under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, says that although he had defied death threats before, he was seriously worried a few days before his death that he was going to be targeted by assassins.

Cetin says those on trial were anti-social types from poor families. "The teenage gunman does not even know why he murdered Dink". But they saw themselves as heroes and believed they would be released after a minimum time in jail.

The lawyer is convinced a right-wing organisation called Ergenekon had planned the killing. A cache of hand grenades found in a retired army NCO's house in June 2007 were linked with Ergenekon. The organisation's hand had been seen in several bombings and assassinations, and plans for a coup in 2009. But some police bureaus had worked to conceal evidence.

"The Ergenekon gang is a deep organisation and as long as the true leaders remain free, the real instigators of Din's muder will never be captured."
(Hurriyet Daily News, January 9, 2011)

Though the killers succeeded in silencing an important voice for truth about the Armenian tragedy and a new understanding between Turks, Armenians and Kurdish people, they have failed to close Hrant Dink's vision or the inspiration it gave. Thousands marched in his honour after his death, and the anniversary is going to be marked by several events.

Information from Wikipedia:

Hrant Dink was born in Malatya on September 15, 1954, the eldest of three sons to Sarkis Dink (known as Haşim Kalfa), a tailor from Sivas_Province, and Gülvart Dink, from Sivas. His father's gambling debts led to the family's move to İstanbul in 1960. A year after their move, Dink's parents separated, leaving the seven-year old Dink and his brothers without a place to live. Dink's grandfather enrolled the boys at the Gedikpaşa Armenian Orphanage. The orphanage children spent their summers at the Tuzla Armenian Children's Camp, on the Marmara beachfront in a suburb of İstanbul, building and improving the summer camp during their stay. It was at the camp that Hrant met his future wife as a child and later married her . The government-led closing of the Camp in 1984 was one of the factors that raised Dink's awareness of the Armenian issue in Turkey, and led to his politicisation.

At Istanbul University, Hrant became a sympathizer of TİKKO, the armed faction of the Turkish Communist Party- Marxist-Leninist. His friend Armanek Bakırcıyan, who changed his name to Orhan Bakır, later rose in TİKKO to membership of the central committee, took part in armed struggle in Eastern Turkey and was killed during fighting in 1978.

Hrant's wife Rakel Yağbasan, whom he first met when she came to the Tuzla Armenian Children's Camp, was born in 1959, one of 13 children of Siyament Yağbasan, head of the Varto clan and Delal Yağbasan who died when Rakel was a child.

In 1915, the Varto clan had received orders to relocate along with the rest of the Armenian population in the region, but they were attacked during the journey. Five families from the clan escaped to nearby Mount Cudi and settled there, remaining without any contact to the outside world for 25 years. Eventually they re-established contact and largely assimilated into the nearby Kurdish population, speaking Kurdish exclusively, although they retained knowledge of their Armenian origin and Christian beliefs.

Staying at the Tuzla Camp during summers and at the Gedikpaşa Orphanage during winters, Rakel learned Turkish and Armenian, and finished primary school. Because she was registered as a Turk, not as an Armenian, she was not allowed to enroll at Armenian community schools and her father did not give permission for her to attend a Turkish school past 5th grade. Not able to obtain further formal schooling, Rakel was privately tutored by instructors at the Gedikpaşa Orphanage. At first her father opposed the marriage, but the young couple insisted

Having graduated from the university, Hrant Dink completed his military service, but whether for his Armenian background or his political record he was denied promotion, something which confirmed him in his activism. Back in Istanbul he and his brothers established a bookstore which became popular with students and expanded into a publishing business. After the 1980 military coup, when restrictions were placed on travel, one of Hrant's brothers was arrested for using false papers, and he himself was questioned about alleged links with Asala, a secret Armenian armed group.

Hrant Dink was one of the founders of Agos weekly, the only newspaper in Turkey published in Armenian and Turkish, and served as the editor-in-chief from its founding in 1996 until his death in 2007. Agos was born out of a meeting called by Patriarch Karekin II when Turkish media started linking Armenians of Turkey with the illegal Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) A picture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and an Assyrian priest appeared in a Turkish daily, with the caption "Here's proof of the Armenian-PKK cooperation".

The view at the meeting was that the Armenians in Turkey needed to communicate with the society at large. The group held a widely covered press conference, followed by monthly press events and eventually formed Agos. Dink had not been a professional journalist until founding Agos., though he had contributed occasional articles and book reviews to local Armenian language newspapers and corrections and letters to the editor to the national dailies.[21] He soon became well known for his editorials in Agos and also wrote columns in the national dailies Zaman and BirGün.[28]

Up to the founding of Agos, the Armenian community had two main newspapers, Marmara and Jamanak, both published only in Armenian. By publishing in Turkish as well as Armenian, Hrant Dink opened up the channels of communication to the society at large for the Armenian community. After Agos started its publication, the participation of Armenians in the political-cultural life in Turkey increased greatly, and public awareness in Turkey of the issues of the Armenians started to increase.[26] Always willing to speak on the issues faced by Armenians, Hrant Dink emerged as a leader in his community and became a well-known public figure in Turkey.

Under Hrant Dink's editorship, Agos concentrated on five major topics: Speaking against any unfair treatment of the Armenian community in Turkey, covering human rights violations and problems of democratization in Turkey, carrying news of developments in the Republic of Armenia, with special emphasis on the Turkey-Armenia relations, publishing articles and serials on the Armenian cultural heritage and its contributions to the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, criticizing malfunctions and non-transparency in the Armenian community institutions.

As a leftist activist, Hrant Dink often spoke and wrote about the problems of democratization in Turkey, defending other authors such as Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and novelist Perihan Mağden who came under criticism and prosecution for their opinions. In a speech Hrant Dink delivered on May 19, 2006, at a seminar jointly organized in Antalya by the Turkish Journalists´ Association and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, he said:

"I think the fundamental problems in Turkey exist for the majority as well . Therefore, ..., I will speak for the majority, including myself in it and dwell on where, we, as Turkey, are headed."
Dink hoped his questioning would pave the way for peace between the two peoples:
"If I write about the [Armenian] genocide it angers the Turkish generals. I want to write and ask how we can change this historical conflict into peace. They don’t know how to solve the Armenian problem."
Active in various democratic platforms and civil society organizations, Hrant Dink emphasized the need for democratization in Turkey and focused on the issues of free speech, minority rights, civic rights and issues pertaining to the Armenian community in Turkey. He was a very important peace activist. In his public speeches, which were often intensely emotional, he never refrained from using the word genocide when talking about the Armenian Genocide, a term fiercely rejected by Turkey. At the same time, he was strongly critical of the strategy of the Armenian diaspora of pressuring Western governments into official recognition of the Genocide label.

Dink featured prominently in the 2006 genocide documentary film Screamers in which he explains:

"There are Turks who don't admit that their ancestors committed genocide. If you look at it though, they seem to be nice people… So why don't they admit it? Because they think that genocide is a bad thing which they would never want to commit, and because they can't believe their ancestors would do such a thing either."

Indicating that a show of empathy would have nothing to do with accepting or refusing the genocide, Dink called for dialogue:

Turkish-Armenian relations should be taken out of a 1915 meters-deep well."[26]

Dink was prosecuted three times for denigrating Turkishness under Article 301.

The first charge under the previous version of Article 301, then called Article 159, stemmed from a speech he delivered at a panel hosted by human rights NGO Mazlum-Der in Şanlıurfa on 14 February 2002.[39] Speaking at the "Global Security, Terror and Human Rights, Multiculturalism, Minorities and Human Rights" panel, Dink and another speaker, lawyer Şehmus Ülek, faced charges for denigrating Turkishness and the Republic.[40] In the speech, Dink had stated:

"Since my childhood, I have been singing the national anthem along with you. Recently, there is a section where I cannot sing any longer and remain silent. You sing it, I join you later. It is: Smile at my heroic race... Where is the heroism of this race? We are trying to form the concept of citizenship on national unity and a heroic race. For example, if it were Smile at my hard-working people..., I would sing it louder than all of you, but it is not. Of the oath I am Turkish, honest and hard-working, I like the 'honest and hard-working' part and I shout it loudly. The I am Turkish part, I try to understand as I am from Turkey."[41]
"Of course I'm saying it's a genocide, because its consequences show it to be true and label it so. We see that people who had lived on this soil for 4,000 years were exterminated by these events."



Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 7:30

Nevart Gulbenkian Hall, Iverna Gardens, W8 6TP

(Tube: High Street Kensington)

An informal event bringing together communities of neighbouring cultures.Please bring your favourite song, dish to pass, and friends.

Join Armenian–Turkish–Kurdish musicians in a New Year’s evening of singing and music–making to remember Hrant Dink (d. 19 January 2007). A short excerpt from “Heart of Two Nations”, prize–winning documentary by Nouritza Matossian will be screened.

Donation of £5 welcome to cover costs. Please confirm your attendance by email.

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