ANCA-WR Leads Community in Condemning the Murder of Journalist Hrant Dink

LOS ANGELES–The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region led community-wide efforts this week in condemning the murder of Hrant Dink, an outspoken champion of freedom of speech and acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide, was shot dead last Friday in front of the offices of Agos, an Armenian/Turkish bilingual newspaper based in Istanbul, Turkey. An ANCA-WR press conference held on Saturday to condemn Dink’s assassination was covered by KCBS, KNBC, KABC and KCAL television news stations and by KFI and KFWB radio stations. A staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and other reporters were also present to cover the story. The ANCA-WR press conference included the participation of leaders from over 25 Armenian American community organizations in the greater Los Angeles area, human rights organizations, and other interest groups who gathered in front of the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles for the press conference. "While one or two people may be ultimately identified as Hrant Dink’s killers, the blood is on the hands of the Turkish Government, and by extension our own U.S. government, from this latest victim of the Armenian Genocide." remarked Zanku Armenian, ANCA-WR Board Member and spokesman at the press conference. "It is the apex of hypocrisy for the Turkish government to condemn this murder when it is they who have emboldened a culture of intolerance, hate, and genocide with their continuing denial of the Armenian Genocide, and their prosecution of Turkish citizens who attempt to speak the truth and have an open dialogue about this dark chapter in Turkey’s history." Prosecuted for his outspoken references to the Armenian Genocide of the early 20th century, the Turkish judiciary recently upheld a six-month suspended sentence against Dink for "insulting Turkishness." Several other prominent voices of dissent against the Turkish Governmen’s official policy of genocide denial have been similarly charged under Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code. The code, a continuation of previous penal codes outlawing discussion of the Armenian Genocide, continues to draw sharp criticism from the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join. Also addressing the media were California State Assembly Member Paul Krekorian (D-43rd), Frank Zerunyan, Mayor Pro-Tem of Rolling Hills Estates and Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association, Glendale City Council Member Ara Najarian and Carla Garapedian, director of the movie, "Screamers." Dink was prominently featured in "Screamers," a documentary movie about the ongoing cycle of genocide in the world. In the movie the slain journalist addressed the persecution of those seeking to drive dialogue in Turkey about the issue of the Armenian Genocide. Katusha Galitzine, Freedom to Write Director from PEN USA joined the community in condemning the murder. PEN USA is based in Los Angeles and the national affiliate of International PEN, a prominent, world-wide organization for writers that champions freedom of speech issues. On Friday, International PEN issued a statement on Dink’s murder which stated, in part, "Dink, whose campaign against the law making it a crime to insult the Turkish State, particularly as it relates to the killings of Armenia’s in the early years of the last century, has paid the highest price with his own life." The ANCA-WR was joined at the press conference by representatives from the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church Western United States, Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Western United States, the Armenian Catholic Exarchate of North America, the Organization of Istanbul Armenia’s, the Ramgavar Party, the American Hellenic Council, the United Human Rights Council, representatives from Armenian Student Associations, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Relief Society, Hamazkayin Cultural Association, Homenetmen, Armenian Youth Federation, and the ANC-Professional Network. On Friday, the ANCA released a statement condemning the murder. "Hrant Dink’s murder is tragic proof that the Turkish government – through its campaign of denial, threats and intimidation against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide–continues to fuel the same hatred and intolerance that initially led to this crime against humanity more than 90 years ago," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. Also on Friday, the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy released a statement in which EAFJD Chairwoman Hilda Tchoboian declared, "In a country where the system of education and the political culture moulds the minds of the people with hatred towards the Non-Turkish citizens of the country and where racism is rampant with extreme-right organizations occupying a place of honour, this is a sad reminder that things are far from changing in today’s Turkey. This vile murder proves once again that racism has deep roots in Turkey." On Saturday, the San Francisco-Bay Area ANC hosted a community event featuring Turkish scholar, Dr. Taner Akcam, on the occasion of the recent release of his book A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. Following the event, Akcam, a friend of Dink’s, flew to Turkey to attend his funeral. On Sunday, the Central California ANC hosted director, Carla Garapedian on the occasion of the local premier of her newly released movie SCREAMERS. Both the San Francisco and Fresno area events were covered by local print, radio, and television media.

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