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Commentary on the Murder of Hrant Dink
January 19, 2007
The murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink today came as a shock to all of us at the Zoryan Institute. About four years ago, he visited the institute and shared with us his vision of bringing together the Armenian and Turkish peoples through dialogue and reconciliation. He reiterated this vision at the scholarly conference in Yerevan in April 2005 and again at the Third Armenia-Diaspora Conference there last September. He was a passionate individual, devoted to promoting truth, freedom of speech, and democracy.
On behalf of the Zoryan Board and staff, we wish to express our deepest condolences to his family. We express our sympathies to the people of Turkey , who believe in what he stood for, as they have lost a staunch champion for human rights. We also express our sympathies to the Armenians of Turkey, who have lost a strong voice of leadership in the effort to reconcile the Armenian and Turkish peoples.
Dink used his newspaper, Agos , as a vehicle to disseminate his views with conviction. He raised questions about Turkish history and the highly politicized Armenian Genocide issue, thus contributing to an open public debate. When addressing Armenians, he pleaded that Armenians, especially those in the Diaspora, who are primarily descendants of the survivors of the 1915 Genocide, not view the people of Turkey with the spectacles of that era, but rather to seek ways and means of sharing the truth with Turks in order to ultimately achieve reconciliation.
Unfortunately, Dink became disillusioned because of the events that had taken place over the past four years. Despite the promise of the Turkish Government to bring about freedom of speech and democracy, some 75 people were indicted under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal code. He was part of the Istanbul Conference in 2005, whose participants the Turkish Justice Minister called “traitors” and accused of “stabbing the nation in the back.” Most of the people indicted under Article 301 were acquitted. He felt that he was being singled out, as a Turkish citizen of Armenian heritage, for rougher treatment for the same alleged offense. No one has been imprisoned in Turkey for breaching Article 301, but the appeals court confirmed a six-month suspended sentence against Dink. He was beaten by an angry mob when leaving the courthouse.
He was equally disillusioned by France ’s effort to penalize denial of the Armenian Genocide. He felt strongly that the law in both countries was being used to stifle freedom of speech and expression. It is ironic that, he, while being persecuted in his own country for referring to the massacre of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide, at the same time challenged the French Government to indict him under their proposed new law, in defense of the same right of free speech.
It is our opinion that, while trying to promote freedom of expression and bring about mutual understanding between Turks and Armenians, Dink was a victim of the political struggle between the forces of democratization in Turkey and the forces of the “Deep State” that want to maintain the status quo. This casts a terrible chill on the entire human rights movement in Turkey and dims the hope of reconciliation.
Let Hrant Dink’s vision and spirit stay alive and inspire all those who continue the struggle for universal human rights.
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