Blank page for Hrant Dink
The murdered Turkish-Armenian journalist fell victim to three bullets, just as in life he fell victim to three different fates. An obituary
By Kristin Platt
Let us place a wreath in Turkish colours at the grave of Hrant Dink. A mourning Turkish community in Turkey and in Europe is expressing its shock and disgust at the “cowardly” crime against freedom of opinion. People are uniting in a mutual espousal of democracy. One of us.
It is not difficult to mourn the passing of Hrant Dink. Press statements are being composed, vigils planned, protest marches, portrait photographs of Hrant Dink are being distributed, copied onto scraps of paper, 10 x 15 cm in size. Fastened with safety pins onto pullovers and jackets, they symbolise the unity of the mourners. It is a very windy January. It is a time in which there is talk of political remembrance, which should have the power to alleviate differences in order to withstand future problems : Terrorism, climate change, energy shortages.
One of us. Perhaps Hrant Dink the journalist did not believe this deep in his heart. But Hrant Dink the man did. He accepted any offers put to him with the vigour of a starving orphan. He no longer scrutinised the talk of solidarity of the critical intellectuals of Turkey ; he accepted the offer of solidarity outside of history just as he did invitations to Lake Geneva or the Petersberg near Bonn ; he felt safe in the accolades and international recognition. Hrant Dink consented to the condition of political “dialogue”, to the “let us speak of universal solidarity instead of national responsibility”.
If he had lived for at least another ten years, perhaps he would have had to experience for himself that he was never one “of them”. He might have seen that there is no dialogue without a prior recognition of the truth. Maybe he would have discovered for himself that those who use him for their political gains would not protect him. But with his death, he can remain absorbed in the remembrance of the Turkish national community that exploited his name in order to demonstrate the “opening up” of Turkey .
At the same time, the group of Turkish intellectuals that brought Hrant Dink to the table in order to promote Turkey ’s EU capability already has its eye on promising successors. The new proof of Turkey ’s suitability for the EU can now be carried by Turks themselves : a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, a female Turkish author - there are enough prospects to enable the continuation of the politics of image without any damage. Indeed, the murder of Hrant Dink can even be lucratively integrated into these politics of image.
Hrant Dink was the victim of three bullets, and he was the victim of three different fates. The first, his belief that it is possible to live as an Armenian without the memory of the genocide, was negated by the murder itself. The second, that as an Armenian, he could have a place in Turkey , is not even being allowed by those who are marching his name through the major cities of Europe and powerfully insisting that this is a Turkish bereavement. The third fate, that the very political powers that built him up as the prime example of a “togetherness of cultures in Turkey ” are mourning not for him as an Armenian but rather for their investment, is above all clear in Germany .
Thus Hrant Dink has become something that he never wished to become : a victim of Armenian history. A victim of a refused coexistence. A victim of refused remembrance. A victim of refused recognition.
A second wreath is missing from Hrant Dink’s grave. There is no Armenian flag that we could place on his grave. There are no symbolic, hope-bearing flowers that we could send with him. Perhaps just a blank piece of paper. A blank page for all the pages that he will no longer be able to fill. A blank page for all those pages that are missing from the Turkish history books : the pages on the history of Western Armenia and the genocide of 1915/1916.
And so Hrant Dink, who dreamed of being “one of them”, has, through his death, become “one of us” again. For the Turkish society that has struggled for over a hundred years for a strong unity of culture and justice, language and territory, knowledge and history, proved to be enduring, unrelenting and impenetrable.
Our lives are not gifts, but mere loans.
But how, as an Armenian, how, as one who belongs to a history that was ended, as a member of a community that should no longer be alive today, can one not believe that life is a gift, open to hope, open to the future ? The murder of Hrant Dink has made the borrowed nature of our lives as clear to us as it has brought our footprints on this earth into focus : As uncertain on the ground which the Armenian Diaspora treads, it remains anchored only in its turbulent, narrated and sung history, the history of violence and loss, the history of denial, of belief and of hope.
We only need one short sentence with which to respond to Hrant Dink’s murder. Four words suffice, and these are words that the survivors and their children and grandchildren have been uttering for a hundred years : We will never forget.
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