In Turkey, hopes for reconciliation fade
By SELCAN HACAOGLU, Associated Press Writer
As mourners streamed through the streets this week to honor slain ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, many liberal Turks were swept up in a sense that an unprecedented chance for ethnic and political reconciliation was at hand.
But a darker reality already has set in : Many Turks are rejecting the appeals for solidarity and democratic reform.
They say the tens of thousands who joined Dink’s funeral procession in Istanbul on Tuesday were mainly urban intellectuals, hardly representative of a nation of more than 70 million people where conservative Islamic values are deep-seated and nationalist pride in "Turkishness" is strong.
Many support the views of nationalists who are becoming increasingly strident in their condemnation of Western values that they feel are being imposed on them by the European Union, which is considering Turkey’s membership bid.
Dink had been forced to stand trial by nationalists angered by his calls to recognize the killings of Armenians in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire as genocide. He was shot down Friday, allegedly by a teenager who incited to the crime by four ultrarightists also charged in the case.
During his funeral procession, mourners chanted "We are all Armenians," urged liberal reform and called for the repeal of the law used to convict Dink on charges of "insulting Turkishness."
The pleas fell on deaf ears, with most Turks interviewed by The Associated Press on Thursday voicing opposition to making concessions to Armenians on the sensitive issue of the killings.
"They should speak for themselves, they cannot speak on behalf of Turks," Filiz Un, 32, said of the marchers honoring Dink. "I am sorry for him as a human, but they cannot pretend that all the Turkish public is behind them."
A headline in the right-wing newspaper Tercuman said anyone who isn’t proud to be Turkish "should clear off and leave."
Turkey’s largest nationalist party responded to the mourners’ chants by posting its own slogan _ "We are all Turks" _ on a digital display outside a local party branch in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
And in a chilling sign that the suspects in Dink’s killing have their supporters, a fake bomb was left outside the Turkish parliament building Thursday saying they should be set free, private CNN-Turk television reported.
That came a day after one of the men charged in the slaying issued a threat against Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel literature prize-winner who also has been charged with insulting Turkey.
The defiant tone from nationalists alarmed mainstream politicians.
"You don’t recognize any laws, you go and kill defenseless people ? That’s not nationalism," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. "If you do that, you are murderers and monsters. No one but God can take a life."
Turkey’s expulsion of ethnic Armenians during World War I _ which Armenians say claimed 1.5 million lives _ is a dark chapter rarely discussed publicly in Turkey or taught in its schools.
Turkey vehemently denies that many died or that it was genocide, saying the bloodshed came during the chaos of a disintegrating empire. It is battling Armenian diaspora groups that are pushing European governments and the United States to declare the killings genocide.
"There is a fault line passing right through the middle of society," wrote Turker Alkan, a columnist for the center-left newspaper Radikal.
"Those who cannot reconcile Hrant Dink’s murder with humanity, consciousness and moral values are on the one side ; those who don’t really oppose the murder because of their nationalist sentiments and their religious beliefs are on the other," he added.
Selami Ince, news editor of the Istanbul-based Su TV, run by the Alawite Muslim sect, answered by saying few of the funeral marchers were Turks with roots in the Anatolian heartland.
"Unfortunately, they do not represent the Turkish public," Ince said. "The Turkish public has not filled the streets with demands of democracy and freedom. They were leftists, Armenians, Kurds and those intellectuals who favor multiculturalism."
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