Tens of Thousands Attend Dink Funeral in Istanbul

ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)–Some 100,000 people thronged the streets of Istanbul on Tuesday to take part in the funeral of outspoken Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink whose assassination sparked an uproar in Turkey and around the world. Dink’s body was laid to rest at a local Armenian cemetery at the end of a huge funeral procession that stretched for several kilometers and shut down much of central Istanbul. The procession, broadcast live by Turkish television and retransmitted by Armenia’s state-run First Channel, began outside the offices of Dink’s "Agos" weekly newspaper, the scene of Friday’s deadly shooting that shocked many Turks and Armenia’s. The crowd greeted a hearse carrying the editor’s coffin, decorated with flowers, with rapturous applause. Some people also chanted "Murderous state must be held accountable!" and "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!" Dink’s widow Rahel, surrounded by her three children, delivered an emotional speech to the crowd. "Seventeen or 27, whoever he was, the murderer was once a baby," she said, referring to a teenage man who has confessed to killing her prominent husband. "Unless we can question how this baby grew into a murderer, we cannot achieve anything." The mourners then marched behind the coffin to an Armenian cathedral where a religious service was held before the burial. Many of them carried black-and-white placards reading, "We are all Hrant Dinks" and "We are all Armenia’s," in Turkish and Armenian. Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, the Patriarch of Istanbul, presided over the service attended by Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin, Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu and other senior Turkish officials. Armenia, which the Turkish government invited to the ceremony, was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian. He delivered a letter of condolences and a wreath sent by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian to the Dink family. In a speech read out in Armenian and Turkish, Mutafyan was thankful for the quick apprehension of the suspect. "But this is not enough. The real masterminds of the crime must also be identified," he said, indicating his belief that the 17-year-old suspect, Ogun Samast, could not have acted on his own. The Turkish police say Samast has confessed to shooting Dink for nationalist motives. A nationalist militant friend of Samast, also under arrest, has admitted that he incited Samast to carry out the killing, according to the police. Another suspect is a university student who allegedly "inspired" the attack, "Hurriyet" newspaper reported Tuesday. Arch. Mutafyan also stressed that individuals like Dink, who openly question official Ankara’s vehement denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide, should not only be spared death but also "not be tried and imprisoned." It was a clear reference to a six-month suspended prison sentence handed to Dink under a highly controversial Turkish law dealing with "insults to Turkishness." Turkey is under growing international pressure to scrap the clause. "It is our expectation that our state and the Turkish people will not forget that we Armenia’s have lived in these lands for thousands of years and are now citizens of the Turkish Republic, and that they will not regard us as aliens and potential enemies," continued the Armenian patriarch. "We also hope that efforts, starting from textbooks and schools, will be made to eliminate notions portraying us as enemies." Turkish authorities took tight security measures for the massive outpouring of grief, deploying hundreds of police along the eight-kilometer route from the "Agos" office to the Armenian church of Virgin Mary. Snipers could be seen positioned on the rooftops of nearby buildings and a police helicopter roared overhead during the funeral procession. A remembrance ceremony was also held on Tuesday in Yerevan where more than two thousand people gathered in the city’s Freedom Square to pay their respects to a man who has frequently visited Armenia over the past decade. The rally, which was timed to coincide with the start of Dink’s funeral, was organized by a group of local and Diaspora Armenian civic activists. "Hrant’s discourse was a message to the Armenian and Turkish peoples," one of the speakers said. "Hrant believed that they must seek reconciliation." The ceremonies in Istanbul and Yerevan were attended by the heads of US diplomatic missions in Turkey and Armenia, underscoring Washington’s concerns about implications of Dink’s murder. "Hrant Dink was a great advocate in the country for freedom of speech and for reconciliation, in particular between Armenia’s and Turks," Ross Wilson, the US ambassador to Turkey, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "He was one of the many advocates here for a more liberal Turkey," Wilson said. "All of them are making a statement about the kind of country they want Turkey to be. Judging by what you see on the streets, he did bring the people together." The responsibility for the Dink’s murder should be laid at the door of those who tried to portray him as an enemy of Turkey, Noble Laureate Orhan Pamuk said late Sunday. Speaking during a visit to the offices of the Agos newspaper in Istanbul, where Dink was gunned down Friday, Pamuk said that those who were still defending article 301 of the Turkish penal code were responsible of Dink’s death. "Certainly we all are responsible…. But firstly, those who declared our brother an enemy of Turkey are responsible," Pamuk said. Pamuk, who along with Dink was also tried under notorious article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which covers the crime of "insulting Turkishness", said that Dink, who was the editor in chief and founder of Agos, was killed because he expressed his thoughts. Famous Turkish singer Sezen Aksu visited the Dink family and spoke of her sadness at having lost one of Turkey’s most courageous citizens. Members of 10 Turkish journalist groups gathered Monday in the Kizilay Square Monday in a protest against the killing of Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the Turkish- Armenian weekly Agos. Reading out a joint statement, the Turkish Journalists’ Labor Union Chairman Ercan Ipekci said, "Today, we gathered here to condemn everyone who contributed to the killing of Dink and who turned a child into a murderer."Those who created a social chaos with argumen’s over the Article 301 of the Penal Code and those who made publications by exploiting such issues are responsible for killing of Dink. We will not feel relieved till those who ordered his killing and those who encouraged it are brought to justice," he said. "We, as his colleagues will continue writing about the facts, the humanity, the freedoms, the equality and the justice with the same determination and courage," Ipekci vowed.

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