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20 01 2007 - He was best known for his role as editor of 'Agos' Armenian Language weekly in Istanbul.
Hrant Dink

Hrant Dink (September 15, 1954 - January 19, 2007) was born in Malatya. He was best known for his role as editor of 'Agos' Armenian Language weekly in Istanbul. He worked as the columnist and editor-in chief of AGOS weekly newspaper, which can be regarded as the voice of Armenian community, from 1996 until January 19, 2007 when he was shot dead outside of his office.

At the age of seven, he migrated to İstanbul together with his family. In Istanbul, his parents got divorced and he was raised by the Armenian Orphanage in Gedikpasa, Istanbul with his 2 siblings.

He got his primary and secondary education in Armenian schools. Immediately after secondary school, he got married to Rakel, a childhood friend from the orphanage. Hrant finished the Istanbul University's Science Faculty with a degree in zoology. Hrant served 8 months with the Turkish Naval Infantry Regiment in Denizli to satisfy his mandatory military service. He had three children with his wife.

He graduated from Zoology Department of İstanbul University’s Science Faculty. Then he continued his education at Philosophy Department of the same university’s Literature Faculty for a while.

He started to publish the Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper AGOS on April 5, 1996 to establish a bridge of communication and understanding between the larger Turkish population and the Turkish-Armenian community which he complained was living too isolated an existence. He tried to make AGOS newspaper a democrat and oppositional voice of Turkey and also to share the injustices done to Armenian community with public opinion.

One of the major aims of the newspaper is to contribute to dialogue between Turkish and Armenian nations and also between Turkey and Armenia.

He took part in various democratic platforms and civil society organizations.

He was charged and convicted of insulting Turkishness in Turkey, charges which he denied.

* 1 Legal battles for insulting Turkishness
o 1.1 Poisoning effect in your blood
o 1.2 Poisoning part 2
o 1.3 Happy is one who calls himself a Turk
* 2 Shot dead
* 3 The water finds its crack: an Armenian view of Turkey
* 4 Hrant Dink's last column in Agos
* 5 See also
* 6 External links

Legal battles for insulting Turkishness
Poisoning effect in your blood

Dink wrote a series of articles in which he called on diaspora Armenians to stop focusing on the Turks and focus instead on the welfare of Armenia, said Karin Karakaþlý, an editor at Agos newspaper. Karakaþlý said Dink told Armenians their enmity toward the Turks "has a poisoning effect in your blood." She said the court took the article out of context, wrongly assuming it meant that Turkish blood is poison.

On October 7, 2005 Hrant Dink was convicted under article 301 of the penal code of insulting Turkishness, charges that Dink said he would fight, adding that he would leave the country if they were not overturned. He was convicted and given a six-month suspended sentence, which means he will not be forced to serve prison time unless he repeats the offense. Dink has lived in Turkey all his life and was shown on television in tears as he denied the charges and vowed to fight them.

"I'm living together with Turks in this country," Dink told The Associated Press. "And I'm in complete solidarity with them. I don't think I could live with an identity of having insulted them in this country."

The court said Dink's article "was not an expression of opinion with the aim of criticizing but was intended to be insulting and offensive."

Dink, speaking in Turkish, said the sentence was an attempt to silence him.

"But I will not be silent," he said. "As long as I live here, I will go on telling the truth, just as I always have." Dink said he would appeal to Turkey's supreme court and to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

"If it is a day or six months or six years, it is all unacceptable to me," he said. "If I am unable to come up with a positive result, it will be honorable for me to leave this country."

Source: "Dink convicted of insulting Turkish identity", Turkish Daily News, Oct 8 2005
Poisoning part 2

December, 2005 a Turkish court opened a case against an Armenian-Turkish journalist for his comments on a six-month sentence it gave him earlier for denigrating Turkish identity.

The Istanbul court was acting after a group of nationalist lawyers asked the court to file a case against Hrant Dink, editor in chief of the bilingual Turkish and Armenian weekly Agos, and three Agos journalists, saying that the journalists "tried to influence the judiciary" through their editorials.

The case was sent to the Court of Appeals.

The nationalist Lawyers Unity Association asked the court to bring the case against the four journalists, who face jail terms of nine months to 4½ years, if convicted.

"The case has been opened because Dink and the other writers of the Armenian Agos publication have criticized a former sentence of the court in an effort to prevent a just lawsuit, which is against Article 288 of the code," said the leader of the association, Kemal Kerincsiz.

Mr. Dink told the Anka news agency that it was his right to criticize the earlier verdict, adding he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if the Court of Appeals upholds the court ruling.

Source: "Turkey Brings Another Case Against An Ethnic Armenian", Reuters/New York Times on Dec 26 2005
Happy is one who calls himself a Turk

Dink was tried in 2006 for remarks he made at a human rights conference in 2002, criticizing Turkey's national anthem and an oath taken by Turkish schoolchildren each day in which they say, "Happy is one who calls himself/herself a Turk.'

Dink said then that he did not feel like a Turk but like an Armenian who happens to be a citizen of Turkey. He also objected at the time to a line in the national anthem that says "smile upon my heroic race," saying the emphasis on race was a form of discrimination.

Hrant Dink faced up to three years in prison if found guilty by the court in the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa where the conference on minorities and human rights was held.

AFP worded this differently:

Dink, who was not present at the first hearing, told AFP from his office in Istanbul that he believed the suit stemmed from his response to a question on what he felt when, at primary school, he had to take an oath with which elementary school days begin in Turkey. The patriotic verse which all students in Turkey have to memorize and recite begins with the lines: "I am a Turk, I am honest, I am hardworking".

"I said that I was a Turkish citizen but an Armenian and that even though I was honest and hardworking, I was not a Turk, I was an Armenian," Dink explained. He said he also criticized a line in the Turkish national anthem that speaks of "my heroic race".

"I said I did not feel like singing that line because I was against the use of the word 'race', which leads to discrimination," Dink said.

Shot dead
Copyright AP
Copyright AP

In his last column for Agos, Dink complained that he had become famous as an enemy of Turks and wrote of threats against him. He said he had received no protection from authorities despite his complaints.

"My computer's memory is loaded with sentences full of hatred and threats," Dink wrote. "I do not know how real these threats are, but what’s really unbearable is the psychological torture that I’m living in. I am just like a pigeon ... I look around to my left and right, in front and behind me as much as it does. My head is just as active."

Dink ended his last column by predicting that 2007 would be a difficult year, but that he would survive it.

"For me, 2007 is likely to be a hard year. The trials will continue, new ones will be started. Who knows what other injustices I will be up against," he wrote.
Candles burnt by mourners outside Western Diocese of the United States, the night of the murder, 1/19/07.
Candles burnt by mourners outside Western Diocese of the United States, the night of the murder, 1/19/07.

By Paul de Bendern and Thomas Grove

ISTANBUL, Jan 19 (Reuters) - A high-profile Turkish-Armenian editor, convicted of insulting Turkey's identity, was shot dead outside his newspaper office in Istanbul on Friday.

Hrant Dink, a frequent target of nationalist anger for his comments on the Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turks during World War One, was shot as he left his weekly Agos around 1300 GMT in central Istanbul.

"A bullet has been fired at democracy and freedom of expression. I condemn the traitorous hands behind this disgraceful murder," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.

"This was an attack on our peace and stability."

Erdogan told a hastily called news conference in Ankara that two people had been detained in connection with the murder.

The attack is bound to raise political tensions in would-be EU member Turkey, where politicians of all parties have been courting the nationalist vote ahead of presidential elections in May and parliamentary polls due by November.

Turkey's main stock market index fell sharply on the news.

NTV television said Dink had been shot three times in the head and neck.

Muharrem Gozutok, a restaurant owner near the newspaper, said the assailant looked about 20, wore jeans and a cap and shouted "I shot the non-Muslim" as he left the scene.

Protesters outside the Agos office on one of Istanbul's busiest streets chanted "the murderer government will pay" and "shoulder-to-shoulder against fascism".

Television footage showed Dink's body lying in the street covered by a white sheet, with hundreds of bystanders gathering behind a police cordon.

"This bullet was fired against Turkey ... an image has been created about Turkey that its Armenian citizens have no safety," said CNN Turk editor Taha Akyol.

19 Jan 2007 15:44:08 GMT
Source: Reuters

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Can Dundar, Dink's friend and fellow journalist, said he wished Dink had left the country as he once promised he would in the face of the threats, protests and legal proceedings against him. "Hrant's body is lying on the ground as if those bullets were fired at Turkey," Dundar told private NTV television. Dink's body was covered with a white sheet in front of the newspaper's entrance. NTV said four empty shell casings were found on the ground and that he was killed by two bullets to the head. Workers at the newspaper, including Dink's brother, who has also been put on trial in Turkey, wept and consoled each other near his body. Fehmi Koru, a columnist at the Yeni Safak newspaper, said Dink's slaying was aimed at destabilizing Turkey. "His loss is the loss of Turkey," Koru said. Dink had complained in a letter that he received no responses even after complaining to authorities about threats of violence made to him, NTV reported. A colleague at Dink's newspaper, Aydin Engin, said Dink had attributed the threats to elements in the "deep state," a Turkish term that implies shadowy, deeply nationalist and powerful elements in the government. bottom excerpt from: "Turkish-Armenian journalist gunned down", By BENJAMIN HARVEY Associated Press Writer © 2007 The Associated Press, Jan. 19, 2007, 11:37AM Turkish television Friday showed copies of letters containing death threats that Dink said he had received in the last year. He said his pleas for official protection went unanswered.

"We will silence you in a way that you will never speak again," one of the letters said.

Writing in his weekly column Jan. 10, Dink said his computer was full of "lines containing threats and rage."

"It is clear that those who try to alienate me, weaken me and leave me defenseless have been successful," he wrote. "They managed to form a group, with a serious number of people who see me as someone who 'insults Turkishness' with the dirty and wrong information they have been funneling to society."

The water finds its crack: an Armenian view of Turkey

Hrant Dink
December 13, 2005

Europe and Turkey are locked in a relationship of mutual fear and suppressed desire. It will be opened when Turkey can face its greatest taboo, says the editor of the Armenian newspaper `Agos' in Istanbul, Hrant Dink.

The interest of foreign journalists, politicians and intellectuals in Turkey is more intense than ever. Their opening inquiries are clear and strong: `Where is Turkey going? Will nationalism increase? If it does, to what kind of a regime can Turkey slide?'

Then comes a special question, the one that people like me - a Turkish citizen and an Armenian - can always expect: `Are you minorities afraid of the way things are going?'

It is striking that those looking at Turkey from the outside are much more impatient, eager for quick answers and solutions, than those on the inside. To what degree is this impatience realistic? After all, throughout the period of the modern republic since 1923, Turkey is a country where changes have been dictated from top to bottom and thus one where inner dynamics from bottom to top are not easily activated. Turkish society is far more used to accepting change, allowing it to happen, than to initiating it.

This consistent structural character has allowed the `deep state' - the network of military and security forces that exercises real political control in Turkey - to survive the three major international developments influencing the country in recent decades.

First, the cold-war years of conflict (1940s-1980s) between the United States-led capitalist world and the Soviet Union-led socialist world. This external dynamic favoured the emergence of a radical, social left in Turkey, but the state's preference for western capitalism - aided by successive military coups d'état - crushed the left's challenge before it could become too powerful.

Second, the mullahs' revolution in Iran (1979). This external dynamic too had a harsh effect on Turkey; those in power instinctively saw its influence among religious Muslims in Turkey as equivalent to the demand for a change of regime, and thus something to be opposed by all means.

Third, the European Union (1960s-2000s). This outer dynamic is very different in its impact on Turkey than the first two. The main reason is that the EU finds nearly all elements of Turkish society and its institutions divided against itself on the issue. Political left and right, secular and religious, nationalist and liberal, state bureaucracy and military - the situation is the same in that everywhere there are internal conflicts over Europe at least as much as conflicts between the camps.

Since no part of Turkish society is homogeneously `for' or `against' the European Union, the EU process has had a singular effect: dissolving Turkey's existing polarisations and becoming itself the main inner dynamic of Turkish development. As the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU continue over the next decade, this dilemma will increasingly constitute the basis of Turkish politics. Every change experienced in the near future will `touch the skin' of nearly every section of society, creating widespread friction and probably a lot of annoyance.

From the inside, therefore, the questions facing Turkey are different from those posed by outsiders: `How can the oligarchic state, so accustomed to holding power, consent to share its sovereignty as a member of the European Union? Why is it so desperate to abandon the world it knows for an unknown future in Europe - is it the desire to be western, or the fear of remaining eastern?'

The great taboo

But the questions are not all one way. When the European Union is asked why it wishes to include Turkey, with its lower economic and democratic standards, the answer suggests an uncomfortable truth - that the relationship between Turkey and the EU is governed less by reciprocal desire than by fear. The military elite of the Turkish republic probably calculates that a Turkey unable to enter the European Union is in danger of becoming a strategical irrelevance, while the European Union's power-brokers must consider that a Turkey remaining outside of Europe might become a combatant on the other side of a `clash of civilisations'.

As long as the engine of fear pushing from the back is stronger than the engine of desire pulling from the front, the dynamics of Turkish-European Union relations will be uneasy and contested on all sides - not just in Turkey.

Where fear is dominant, it produces symptoms of resistance to change at all levels of society. The more some people yearn and work for openness and enlightenment, the more others who are afraid of such changes struggle to keep society closed. In Turkey, the legal cases against Hrant Dink, Orhan Pamuk, Ragip Zarakolu or Murat Belge are examples of how the breaking of every taboo causes panic in the end. This is especially true of the Armenian issue: the greatest of all taboos in Turkey, one that was present at the creation of the state and which represents the principal `other' of Turkish national identity.

In this atmosphere, a guiding watchword can be found in the first words of our national anthem. Indeed, I concluded my presentation to the conference at Bilgi University, Istanbul on `Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy" on 24-25 September 2005 with these very words: `Do not fear'.

The real desire

The best contribution to the understanding of modern Turkey I can make at this stage is through a theme I developed at that Istanbul conference.

The relation between every living being and its area of existence is contained within it and (in the case of human beings) embodied in its very name. The animate is present, together with its area of living existence, inside and not outside this being. If you take this animate away from its area, even on a golden plate, it means that it is being cut at its very root. Deportation is something like that. People who lived on this territory for 3,000 years, people who produced culture and civilisation on this territory, were torn from the land they had lived on and those who survived were dispersed all over the world.

If this axe to the root dominates the psychological condition of generations of this people, you cannot simply act as if the rupture does not exist. The experience is already internalised, recorded on its people's memory, its genetic code. What is its name? The discipline of law can be preoccupied with this question, but whatever it decides we know exactly what we have lived through. It can be understood, even if I should not use the word genocide, as being a tearing up of the roots. There is nothing to do at this point, but this should be understood very well.

I would like to illustrate this internalising of experience with a personal anecdote from several years ago. An old Turkish man called me from a village in the region of Sivas and said: `Son, we searched everywhere until we found you. There is an old woman here. I guess she is from your people. She has passed away. Can you find any relative of her, or we will bury her with a Muslim service'.He gave me her name; she was a 70-year-old woman called Beatrice who had been visiting on holiday from France. `Okay, uncle, I will search', I said.

I looked around and within ten minutes I had found a close relative; we knew each other because we are so few. I went to the family's store and asked: `Do you know this person?' The middle-aged woman there turned to me and said `She is my mother'. Her mother, she told me, lives in France and comes to Turkey three or four times a year, but after a very short time in Istanbul prefers to go directly to the village she left many years earlier.

I told her daughter the sad news and she immediately travelled to the village. The next day she phoned me from there. She had found her mother but she suddenly began to cry. I begged her not to cry and asked her whether or not she will bring her body back for burial. `Brother', she said, `I want to bring her but there is an uncle here saying something', and gave the phone to him while crying.

I got angry with the man. `Why are you making her cry?', I said. `Son', he said, `I didn't say anything... I only said: `Daughter, it is your mother, your blood; but if you ask me, let her stay here. Let her be buried here...the water has found its crack'.'

I became thrown away at that moment. I lost and found myself in this saying produced by Anatolian people. Indeed, the water had found its crack.

A lady at the Istanbul conference implied that remembering the dead meant coveting territory. Yes, it is true that Armenians long for this soil. But let me repeat what I wrote soon after this experience. At the time the then president of Turkey, Suleyman Demirel, used to say: `We will not give even three pebblestones to Armenians.' I told the story of this woman and said: `We Armenians do desire this territory because our root is here. But don't worry. We desire not to take this territory away, but to come and be buried under it.' very bad

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Hrant Dink's last column in Agos

The irony of history

Let's first repeat the news: The opening date of the Surp Haç Armenian Church of Ahtamar Island in Van, which was restored last year but remained unopened, has been postponed for the third time. In a written statement from the governor of Van it was announced that Ahtamar Church, the restoration of which is complete, will be opened to tourism on April 11. It was also said that the opening ceremony, which will be attended by international guests, will be organized by the governor of Van and the Ministry of Tourism.

Ten years ago, I addressed public officials in Van with my piece, "The Ahtamar workers battalion," and said: "Instead of creating 'monsters' to attract tourists note the historical sights in front of your eyes. Why does one need such mistaken steps? Van is a heaven of historical heritage. Why don't we sit down and think about how to restore this region? 'Armenians will come' they say. So what? Let them come and see the places of their ancestors. What's wrong with that?" And I added: "If you need help, we are ready to help. O history! O future! The youth in Turkey, Armenia and the diaspora are volunteers. 'The Ahtamar workers battalion' is ready for your orders... Know this. "Come, let's not restore the Ahtamar Church merely as a building. Let's also restore our frayed souls."

At last, after 10 years, the restoration of Ahtamar is finally done. We would love to see Turkey and Armenia cooperate in this restoration. But, unfortunately it wasn't the case.

Anyhow, one needs to mention and give thanks for the meticulous work of the project manager Cahit Zeydan, who tried to bring experts from Armenia for consultation, and was able to add the Turkish-Armenian architect Zakarya Mildanoğlu to the project. They did their best and a great job. However the bureaucrats and the politicians messed it up. They weren't able to realize the opening of the church. First they postponed the opening, which was announced as Nov. 4, 2006, to April 2007 because of "weather conditions." Then Atilla Koç, the tourism minister, announced that the ceremony will take place on April 24. Then came the reactions to Koç's timing. Armenian Patriarch Mutafyan declared "no Armenian, including himself, would join the ceremony if it was held on April 24."

Last week the subject was discussed in Parliament. CHP İzmir deputy Erdal Karademir asked whether holding the opening ceremony on April 24, the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, was the result of a specific AKP policy.

The nationalist press, on the other hand, carried the opening of the church into its headlines as "The treasonous opening in Van."

And now the date is announced as April 11.

It could only be possible to put a right job on a wrong course so successfully. The impossible-to-hide hidden motive could not be more revealing.

A real comedy… A real tragedy…

The government hasn't still been able to formulate a correct approach to the "Armenian question."

Its real aim is not to solve the problem, but to gain points like a wrestler in a contest. How and when it will make the right move and defeat its opponent. That's the only concern.

This is not earnestness.

The state calls on Armenian historians to discuss history, but does not shy from trying its own intellectuals who have an unorthodox rhetoric on the Armenian genocide.

It restores an Armenian church in the Southeast, but only thinks, "How can I use this for political gains in the world, how can I sell it?" The shifting of the opening of the Ahtamar Church to April 24 is a clear indication of this dishonest thinking.

And now pay attention!

While the rejection coming from the nationalist camp and even from the Armenian patriarch to the date of the opening creates a chance to correct the mistake, an irony of history appears on the scene.

The irony says, "Since you have shown irresponsibility, let me add to it," and reveals that the newly chosen date, April 11, is indeed April 24!

The April 11 of the year 1915 is exactly the April 24 of today, due to the difference between the old and new calendars.

No wonder the date April 24 is a later addition to the Armenian literature, with the coming of the new Turkish calendar. That date, on which the Armenian intellectuals and leaders were sent to oblivion, was indeed April 11, 1915.

Now a question remains:

Will those who have found April 24 problematic and have opted for April 11 instead choose to change the timing again?Or one could ask it this way: Are you sure? Is this your final decision?
See also

* Article 301
* Agos Newspaper

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