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23 01 2007 - Guardian-UK: He believed his love for his country would save him
Fiachra Gibbons<BR>
All Fiachra Gibbons articles<br>He believed his love for his country would save himMurdered editor Hrant Dink did more than most dared hope to bring Turkey-and his two peoples - towards peaceFiachra GibbonsMonday January 22, 2007The GuardianThe last time I met Hrant Dink he joked that he was "not dead yet". The next time I saw him was on television last Friday, murdered outside thenewspaper he founded in Istanbul. Even with all the death threats, he believed his clear love of his country would save him. "They don't shoot pigeons here." Dink was an orphan. He was given up by his parents when he was still a small boy. To be an orphan in Turkey, a country where family is all, is a heavy burden. To be an Armenian orphan in Turkey is tosimultaneously carry the genocide and the troubled consciences of all you walk among.Dink spent his life trying to create a new family that could accommodate people like him and the millions more who do not fit into the officially prescribed straitjacket of what it means to be a Turk. He tried to rid his country, and his two peoples of the nightmare of the death and the denial dividing them.It is all the more painfully tragic that in his own death he has been accepted into the Turkish family in a way that he never quite achieved during his lifetime.Dink's murder has shamed Turkey, just as his rosecution under the preposterous article 301 of the new penal code, which created the offence of insulting Turkishness, shamed it. All the more so that the judges -heroes in their own heads no doubt of Turkey's cherished secular order - had to horribly distort an article he wrote berating the Armenian diaspora,somehow claiming that his words poisoned the blood of Armenians with hatred of Turks, in order to somehow convict him.What rankled most with him to the end was that he had been held by the state to have insulted Turks. "I wish he could hear the thousands of people lining up all the way from Osmanbey to Harbiye shouting, 'We are allHrant, we are all Armenian!'" a friend of his told me on the night of the killing.Only those who know Turkey can possibly imagine the emotional charge released by those last four words. Just as they will have winced at what the boy who shot him in the back of the head shouted as he ran away: "Ihave killed the gavur [the infidel, the foreigner]." Ogun Samast, the 16-year-old who has apparently now confessed to killing Dink, comes from Trabzon, where last spring, after the publication of the Muhammadcartoons, a boy of 15 walked into a church and shot an Italian priest in the back of the head.Trabzon and the whole Black Sea coast was one of the last places in Turkey where Islam took hold. But, like eastern Anatolia, it was also a place where many thousands died in the chaos of the Ottoman empire's collapse, mainly Greek-speaking Pontian Christians massacred for aiding the Russian invaders.Later, faced with flight to Georgia or forced migration to Greece, many apparently converted to Islam to remain. Even in Turkey, a place often unhappy in its own skin, there is a particular unease about the past on the Black Sea. Many of its inhabitants are acutely aware that a few generations ago they may have been neither Turkish nor Muslim - like the ancestorsof Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister.This often shows itself in self-consciously insistent nationalism or religious observance, two seemingly irreconcilable credos that have found common cause as Europe has shown ugly signs of Islamophobia andTurcophobia and, in the past few months, Turkey's EU accession process has stalled.No one would be angrier than Dink if his death were to give succour to Austrian or French politicians determined to keep Turkey out of Europe.He never saw acceptance of the Armenian genocide as a prerequisite for entry into Europe any more than it was for the Austrians, French, Poles, Lithuanians or Hungarians to face up to their part in the Holocaust.When the French parliament made denial of the Armenian genocide a crime last year, he even offered go to Paris to be the first to defy the new law for the sake of free speech. For him it was not just a matter forTurkey's conscience, or about rebuilding relations with its neighbour, Armenia, although all of this was important; most of all it was for the mental health of Turks. It was Turkey - and not the gavurs or the Armenian diaspora, who kept bringing it up - that was really suffering.Turkey has a long way to go to be at peace with itself, but a process has begun. And it has already gone further than anyone might have dared to dream a decade ago, thanks in good part to Hrant Dink. He did not justpreach generosity, bravery and forgiveness, he lived it.Which is why he walked out of his office on Friday rather than hide away as if he had anything to be ashamed of. His newspaper is called Agos, afterthe Armenian word for opening a furrow for planting. It is for others now to stand at his plough.* Fiachra Gibbons is writing a book on the Ottoman legacy in Europe


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