hepimiz hrant dink'iz
Hrant Dink, writer and editor of the bilingual newspaper Agos, was shot at close range & died in the street outside his office in Istanbul on January 19th. Identified by his father, who saw a video taken at the scene of the crime, 17-year-old Ogun Samast has confessed to the murder & says he is not sorry he did it. That a teenager would kill a man he'd never met can be attributed in part to Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, the first clause of which declares "A person who publicly denigrates Turkishness, the Republic, or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years." Or it can get you three bullets to the neck.
Like a number of prominent literary figures in Turkey, Hrant Dink was brought to court for ostensibly violating Article 301. At a human-rights conference in 2002, he objected to his country's national anthem, particularly the line "Please smile upon my heroic race"--for as an Armenian minority, Dink felt the emphasis on race to be discriminatory. Although he was acquitted, he & four other journalists were later charged for having penned criticism of the decision to ban a 2005 academic conference on the mass killings of Armenians in 1915. To say that Turkey does not recognize the Armenian genocide is a huge understatement; it has spent considerable energy denying that a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing occurred & maintains that the 1.5 million Armenians who died were "one of the tragic consequences of war." The United States considers Turkey an ally & therefore does not use the word genocide to describe the horrors perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in the early part of the last century; twice the Bush administration has disavowed resolutions on this issue.
In Turkey, over sixty cases--most concerning the Armenian genocide--have been filed against writers, activists, & journalists, the most prominent of which is that of Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, author of "Istanbul" (Knopf, 2005) and "Snow" (Knopf, 2004). In 2005 Pamuk was retroactively indicted for remarks made in "Das Magazin," a Swiss weekly supplement: "Thirty thousand Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands [Turkey] and nobody dares talk about it," he said. (Four months later, Article 301 was adopted by the Turkish government.) Publisher Ragip Zarakolu found trouble by printing "objectionable" books, including George Jerjian's "History Will Free All of Us: Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation." This week's New York Times Book Review (which went to press before Hrant Dink's murder) contains a feature on Elif Shafak's novel, "The Bastard of Istanbul" (Viking, 2007), which "recently led to a suit by the right-wing attorney Kemal Kerincsiz, who declared that Shafak's Armenian characters were 'insulting Turkishness' by referring to the 'millions' of Armenians 'massacred' by 'Turkish butchers' who 'then contentedly denied it all.'" According to the Times, Kerincsiz opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union and is well aware that applying his country's censorship laws helps his cause. The Times reviewer, Lorraine Adams, presciently remarked that in comparison to Pamuk & Shafak, "there has been decidedly less clamor about the suits brought against Turkish-Armenian journalists."
With Hrant Dink's death, however, that is no longer the case. An estimated 100,000 mourners (the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet put the figure at "possibly up to 200,000") turned out for the funeral procession on Tuesday, many carrying placards that read "We are all Hrant Dink" and "We are all Armenians." Archbishop Mesrob Mutafayan, who spoke during the service, noted "It is mystical that [Dink's] funeral turned into an occasion where Armenian and Turkish officials gathered together." The New York Times also quoted the archbishop of the Armenian Church of America as saying that Dink's "soul will be in peace when he sees that his assassination created some positive steps between two countries." Certainly the emotional outpouring of Turkish citizens in response to the murder of their fellow patriot is an encouraging development; however, the sinister nature of nationalism continues to fester. Six additional suspects have been brought into custody in recent days, and one of them, Yasin Hayal (a militant convicted in 2004 for bombing a McDonald's), chillingly yelled, "Orhan Pamuk needs to wise up!" as he was being led by police into a courtroom in Istanbul.