As I sit in front of my computer and type in this first eulogy of my life with tears streaming down my face, I realize that what I will miss the most about my dear friend the journalist Hrant Dink’s unexpected departure from this life are the big hugs he used to give me, to us, to all his friends, to humanity as a whole, those warm, comforting, loving hugs... I mourn that I will no longer feel that happiness surge within me as I saw his face light up on our next encounter, he will not say “Dear Muge !” and rush to me with his arms open to give me one of his wonderful hugs. The last image in my minds’ eye will unfortunately be his tall, lifeless body lying covered on a pavement, mercilessly assassinated by a gunman in broad daylight in front of his newspaper in Istanbul on January 19 th 2007.
I got to know Hrant closely in 2002 when he came to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend the annual meeting of the Turkish Armenian Workshop of Scholars that my colleagues Ronald Grigor Suny, Gerard Libaridian and I held at the University of Michigan that year. After the initial meeting at the University of Chicago in 2000, we had decided to invite journalists as observers and he, as the columnist and editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper, was among the invitees. Hrant was just as surprised as we were when he was issued a passport by the Turkish state to attend the workshop as he had been refused one for the last twenty years. At the workshop, he stunned all the participants by making several original contributions, specifically by his articulate standpoint as an Armenian living in Turkey , by his criticism of nationalist Diaspora politics, and by his peaceful vision of the future of Turkish-Armenian relations.
During our first meeting, I was personally struck by one thing in particular about Hrant Dink. At the time, I had been working intensely on the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians in1915 and even just the mere act of reading about the historical events had made me so angry and hurt as a human being and as an ethnic Turk. I had also been born and raised in Turkey for twenty-four years prior to my arrival in the United States and therefore knew and was likewise very upset as a Turkish citizen about the prejudice and discrimination the minorities still faced in Turkey due to rabid Turkish nationalism. When I could not overcome my anger, when the Diaspora Armenians I met in the United States likewise struggled so much — sometimes successfully and at other times unsuccessfully — with their anger and hurt, how had Hrant Dink achieved, how had he managed to overcome that ever-consuming, destructive, dangerous anger to fill himself instead with so much love and hope for humanity, for Turkish society, for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation ? How could he have done so in spite of the memory of 1915 and in spite of the subsequent prejudice and discrimination he faced in Turkey ?
It was for me that particular quality which made Hrant Dink a great human being and a great role model : his unwavering belief in the fundamental goodness of all humans regardless of their race, ethnic origin, regardless of what they had personally or communally experienced ; his unwavering vision that we in Turkey were going to one day be able to finally confront our past and come to terms with our faults, mistakes and violence as well as our so brandied about virtues ; his unwavering trust that we all would manage to live together in peace one day.
Hrant was very excited about our scholarly activities and became our fervent supporter from then on. “You scholars are the ones who are ultimately going to solve this issue !” he kept saying over and over again. Last spring, when he was visiting the United States, I suddenly got a phone call from him to find out that he was on his way to Ann Arbor to especially meet with me : “Keep the dialogue between the Armenian and Turkish scholars going, that is the most significant endeavor we have for the solution of this problem and, no matter what happens, do not let things get politicized,“ he told me during our long meeting over coffee. He was aware, like many of us in the United States , Europe, Turkey and all over the world who belong to our Turkish Armenian network, that the solution to this problem lies in cooperation, in dialogue, and in reconciliation. He was aware that we need to tackle this issue as a community of scholars who, like him, believe in the ultimate goodness of humanity, and who, like him, fervently hope and strive on a daily basis to move that dialogue, the possibility of that reconciliation forward. Following his example, we shall attempt to overcome the deep anger we feel over his assassination, attempt to move beyond the narrow confines of our ethnic, national identities to reach for our common element of humanity so that our children, so that Hrant’s children and beautiful grandchildren live in a world, in societies filled with love rather than hatred.
My dear friend Hrant, I promise you that I will continue, with the help of the community of friends and scholars that we have built around us, to keep reaching out with the same love, warmth and hope that you hugged all of us, and I will try to deliver the same message. And, while your rest in peace within the soil of your ancestors you so loved and cherished to death, you will nevertheless also be there alongside us in spirit.
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