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Remembering Hrant Dink

January 20, 2011

Hrant Dink

I don’t know that there’s much we here at Istanbul Alti can say about Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was shot to death outside the offices of Agos, the newspaper where he served as editor-in-chief for nearly a decade, on this day four years ago, that others haven’t said better, more poignantly or more thoughtfully.
It’s a tragedy in the fullest sense of the word (definition 1.b in Merriam-Webster, for example: “a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force [as destiny] and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror”) – conflict between Dink and Turkey over a number of issues, chief among them minority rights of Armenian Turks and recognition of the events of 1915 as genocide, which segued into court cases both in Turkey and in the European Court of Human Rights, and the sorrowful and disastrous conclusion with Hrant Dink’s assassination at around 3 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2007.

To me, though, the tragedy doesn’t end there, unfortunately. Since the cold-blooded murder of Dink, the official response and other developments (or lack thereof) have been truly discouraging, blatantly callous, and frustrating. Jenny White notes the “years of destruction of evidence and foot-dragging by police and other officials, some of whom appear to be culpable in the crime.” An article in Hurriyet Daily News from last September notes the Turkish state’s defense in the Dink family’s combined case at the European Court of Human Rights “drew parallels between Neo-Nazism” and Dink. And the trial into the murder of Hrant Dink drags on, with only three suspects currently facing trial despite the generally held view that the incident must have had more actors involved (and evidence seeming to support that position). Not only that, as White points out (quoting an HDN piece with an excellent timeline and summary of the Dink family lawyers’ annual report outlining some of their most pressing concerns of potential misconduct or mishandling of evidence in the case), under the much-maligned pretrial holding reforms that went into effect with the new year, the suspects will be released next year if no verdict has been reached by then.

As the banners say, “Justice for Hrant Dink.” It’s necessary, and it’s overdue.

I don’t want to end on quite that depressing of a note, though: The thing that has always struck me about the aftermath of Dink’s murder, aside from the travesty of justice, was the immediate outpouring of support by so many people here in Turkey (I don’t necessarily feel qualified to speak on the immediate aftermath of the assassination though, as I was in a bit of a media blackout at the time). Dink was a controversial figure before his death, the subject of many media attacks. But when people heard of the murder, it seemed to spark a sort of introspection, and an affirmation that no matter what one’s opinion on minority issues, or Armenian issues in Turkey, murder was and is taking things too far (of course, this month we can draw parallels to the dialogue in America about vitriolic rhetoric in the wake of the Giffords shooting, although I caution at drawing many more links between the two).Wikipedia’s article on the assassination says 100,000 people were involved in the march from the Agos office in Osmanbey to Kumkapi for Dink’s funeral – that’s one-third the population of Zurich. I encounter demonstrations of Armenians and Turks alike (and expats, etc. as well) in Istanbul calling attention to the Dink trial fairly regularly. And today, although I missed seeing the main commemoration at the Agos offices, I saw thousands of people gathered at the top of Istiklal Caddesi, calling for justice for Hrant Dink, holding placards, and affirming “Hepimiz Ermeniyiz, Hepimiz Hrant Dink’iz.”

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