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Articles > Armenian-Turkish Relations > We shall keep on talking like Hrant

By Cengiz Aktar

Today is the fifth anniversary of Hrant Dink's murder. Like every year since 2007, an intense “Hrant week” is on its way. But do not think it lasts only for one week; his legacy is now a key to consciences and minds. Hrant was the doctor of this country's ill memory.

This year's anniversary coincided with the conclusion of the trial of his murderers. The case was concluded just how the state had decided to conclude it right from the beginning, i.e., farcically. Not a single new piece of evidence presented by the defense was admitted by the court. In the end it even acquitted the majority of those charged by the prosecution of being part of a terrorist group, adding thereby insult to injury. By clearing them, it indirectly cleared those groups and confirmed once again the dire state of the judiciary. Once the domestic judicial remedies have been exhausted, the case should be referred to the European Court of Human Rights and finally begin. But what matters more is the justice in hearts and consciences. Nobody believes that Dink was killed by some nationalist idle boys. And paradoxically the sense of deception, injustice and insult makes his words and legacy even bigger.

Remarks by Rabah al-Mahdi from Egypt, who was the speaker at the 2012 edition of Boğaziçi University's Hrant Dink Memorial Lecture on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights, were plain: “I see the civic reaction and mobilization in the aftermath of the murder as something that has changed certain clichéd opinions and institutions. Some people and events are strong and powerful enough to destroy the fear barriers all by themselves. I think the Dink murder was a turning point for Turkey.” So will the verdict of the court.

When I recall the widespread despair following his assassination and when I compare it to the huge energy at Dink's funeral, it becomes obvious that the genies are definitely out of their bottles. Now we have a Turkey that is becoming increasingly vocal, takes risks and refreshes its memory. It will no longer be easy to control and manipulate that society.

I compare the present state of despair and hopelessness on the one hand and the outburst of nationalist hubris on the other to the state of hopelessness in the aftermath of Dink's murder. But I am also sure that the quest for justice and conscience will inevitably initiate the irreversible social dynamic, just as it did following his death.

Take these two conservative intellectuals: Cemal Uşşak and Ahmet Turan Alkan. The former, in an interview with the Agos daily, and the latter, in his column in the Aksiyon weekly, do not hesitate to discuss the issue of apology towards Armenians. Uşşak has said, “A sincere apology would change many things regarding 1915,” while Alkan has remarked that “we are extremely sorry that we subjected our Armenian brothers to enormous pain. We have suffered as well; and we have paid for what we did. We wish this had not happened; we wish it could have been possible to remove the year 1915 from our common history. We apologize to the spirits and memories of those who lost their lives in this catastrophe. We apologize to their relatives. We believe that we owe an apology to every Armenian in the world, regardless of whether the victims included their relatives, for this painful period in history. We would have liked to coexist with a strong and productive Armenian population in Anatolia, but that did not happen. This would have been better for all of us. It should be known that Turkey is the motherland of all Armenians; we welcome all of them. We would be pleased to have them in their homeland. Our joint pains will be alleviated. Yes, we sincerely apologize.”

The more the religious segment realizes that the Ittihadist-Kemalist ideology alienated non-Turks, non-Sunni Muslims and non-Muslims no less than Sunni Muslims, the more they assume a leading role to reveal the facts and past pains, address injustices and distance themselves from this ideology, the more Turkish democracy will be consolidated.

Along this line of thought, rather than making frantic statements on the recent French move to criminalize the denial of the “Armenian genocide”, it would be sufficient to simply boycott the notion of the nation that the Ittihadist-Kemalist elite borrowed from France.

Even though it is not clearly visible yet, this is the main dynamic of Turkey. Yet it is doubtful that this country will be willing to fit in the straightjacket offered by the master tailor, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), because this country is now used to the casual shirts that the master tailored during its apprenticeship. There is now a society that raises objections, enjoys the state of freedom and is slowly abolishing the military guardianship thanks to government's early action, a society that stands against the lies and taboos imposed by the former elite -- and this is happening for the first time. Is it easy to control such a society that enjoys democracy and controls its own fate? It should be noted that this is not a process of transformation that has only taken place thanks to the EU bid and the government's action. This is a transformation that society has also paid a substantial price for. Like Hrant Dink.  

Moreover the price of the government's reluctance to introduce further reforms at this stage of the transformation will hurt more and potentially pave the way for more conflict as human beings get used to the good, with them wanting it to last and desiring more, especially if the issue concerns public liberties.

Source: Today's Zaman, 18 January 2012
http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-268899-we-shall-keep-on-talking-like-hrant.html


Added: Friday, January 27, 2012
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