Friday, January 20, 2012

Hrant Dink: Five Years Later

There were marches in Turkey today. Thousands of people took to the streets to commemorate the five year anniversary of the assassination of the renowned Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The turnout was impressively large for more than just the passing of five years. Just this past week or so, the verdicts were handed down in the trials on those accused of killing Dink. It was largely known, or strongly assumed, that the assassination of the Dink was a conspiracy of ultra nationalists. Turkey is the kind of country where the distinction between ultra-nationalists and government is fuzzy.

The young man, Ogun Samast, who gunned down Dink on the streets outside of the offices of Dink's Agos newspaper was sentenced to 22 years in prison. The fellow who incited Samast to commit the crime got life in prison. Two other men each received sentences of 12 years. Sixteen others received light to no sentences. What has caused most of the outrage is that all 19 of accused were acquitted of being a part of a conspiracy.

“Issuing verdicts when the judicial investigation has established so little was already unacceptable but the court’s decisions are absolutely scandalous,” said Reporters Without Borders. “By portraying this murder as the work of a small group of fanatics, the judicial authorities have reflexively protected the state, whose role in this murder has nonetheless been demonstrated by all the independent investigations."

With this verdict, the Turkish state continues its policy of hatred against Armenians. They continue deny the Genocide of 1915, their discrimination of the few Armenians who have lived in Turkey since, and, of course, the murder of Hrant Dink and the trial of those accused of conspiring his assassination. They are a paranoid obstinate lot that believes the time is their only ally in settling "the Armenian question."

It is heartening, though, to see the number of Turks who are also outraged by this. The outrage shown in Istanbul today may be beyond my own outrage. It does my heart good to see this. All Turks do not hate Armenians. Many, like those who protested today look, as I do, to the similarities between Turks and Armenians not the difference. The government, their actions and policies regarding Armenians and other minorities, has been the problem since at least 1890.

There have always been Turks that feel as I do that we are more like cousins then enemies. The culture, the foods, the music, and even some of the language overlap. But, we cannot celebrate these things on a large scale until the Turkish Government just gets out its own way and acknowledges exactly what happened. In my one and only trip to Istanbul, half the people looked Armenian to me.

In 1915, a million and a half Armenians were killed in the Genocide. Yet, the killing of one more, Hrant Dink, has done as much to bring the topic to the forefront in Turkey than anything we may have done in the diaspora. A few days ago I referred to Hrant Dink as the Martin Luther King of Turkey in my previous blog posting. I was hesitant to do it because I was not sure if it was the right comparison.  I pondered and did it anyway. After today's demonstrations in Turkey, I believe I am absolutely correct.  I hope Hrant Dink's death brings about the transformation in Turkey he had so strongly advocated for in this life.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mark agabey,

    I was there in this year's march. most of people were turks rather than istanbul armenians. however part of these were from organized leftist or kurdish nationalist movements who are ready to take part in any kind of marches, so occasionally volunteer participants were 50% I guess.

    Thing is, yes Turkey's society realizing a transformation. I hope, it will lead us to a new government policy cleared off from nationalist ideology.

    Regaring your comparison of Hrant Dink with M.L.King, I would say, Hrant Dink assasination became a milestone that ruling party realized how dangerous can be the "gladio" located in the core of the government. since assasination, many important cases filed against "gladio" which is a historical part of turkish republic and ottoman empire.

    However, things change slow, yes. Such demonstrations guarantee the existence of this change, I hope.