Hrant Dink

What else could I possibly write about this week? Hrant Dink’s murder may come to be a turning point in the history of Armenian-Turkish relations because so many things are at play. The Turkey-EU angle. The government’s denial angles. The Armenia’s in Turkey visibility angle. The pressure on the U.S. Congress angle. The refocusing of Armenian attention on Western Armenia angle. The massive funeral turnout angle. As is common, there’re even a distasteful, tacky aspects to the last few days, but the dignity of the moment proscribes addressing those until a later time. Some may have had problems with what Dink had to say. Clearly many Turks did. And, part of the propaganda angle emanating from the Turkish side claims that some Armenia’s condemned his positions. Regardless of what anyone thought of the man, what must come through loud and clear through the sorrow, drama, and intensity of the moment is, as Robert Fisk said, Hrant Dink is the 1,500,001st victim of the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish state’s culpability for his murder has to been emphasized in every conversation, from water cooler and kitchen klatch gossip to our organizations’ formal communications and media appearances. Don’t you wonder how the police caught the offender so quickly? Isn’t it a wonder that his own father turned him in? And, they also know who armed the young racist. I wish the FBI or any U.S. police department was that effective. Could it be that they knew where to look? Could the local governor’s threat to Dink three years ago be suggestive? Could the years of free reign the Turkish government gave to right wing and religious groups to grow, to counterbalance the left, under the military’s subtle aegis, have something to do with this act and how easily the perpetrator was captured? Most importantly, didn’t Turkey’s prevailing attitude regarding the Genocide and Armenia’s, nurtured for years by the government and now taken up by rightists as the former works on getting into the EU, create the social conditions enabling such a murder? There are reports that gunman Ogun Samast shouted something to the effect of "I killed the non-muslim". How much do you wanna bet that included the term "giavoor"? Certainly, the funeral procession of reportedly more the 100,000 people is good sign. If you haven’t seen the pictures, find and view them. Clearly, many were Turks of conscience. I feel confident that most of those were from the political left of that society. This speaks to the need for us, Armenia’s, and particularly from the Diaspora, to engage that segment of society more closely, albeit with extreme caution. We’ve been burned by the Turkish left as well in the past. Developing that non-governmental connection from Armenia might be problematic because the Turkish government and rightists would hatch an absurd conspiracy theory the Armenia is trying to undermine Turkey, or some other such gobbledygook. But overall, Turkish media and societal response speak to the agonizingly slow progress that has been made in Armeno-Turkish relations. However, watching the Turkish government doing backflips to distract attention from its culpability is almost amusing. This, of course, rises from the desire not to further complicate Turkey’s entry into the EU. The condemnation of the murder, inviting Armenia to send official representatives to Dink’s funeral, sending high level (though not the highest) functionaries to the funeral, are all desperate efforts by the government to avoid being tainted by this murder. But, again, they are clearly culpable. After being alerted by Dink that he was getting threats, why was no protection provided? It’s not as though Turkey has no history of politically motivated murder. The level of seriousness with which we should take official protestations of innocence is also affected by other phenomena. Take Hugh Pope’s article "Armenia Haunts Turks Again" in January 23rd’s LATimes (a version of which also appeared in Lebanon’s Daily Star). This Turcophile plays a standard game, sound reasonable, throw in "the charge that its predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire, killed 1.2 million Armenian men, women, and children in a genocide that began in 1915". Note how cleverly the G word is couched. Note the numbers game he plays. Then he proceeds to regurgitate that chestnut about Armenia’s siding with Turkey’s enemies and demanding lands during World War I, usual distortions and fallacies put out by Turkey’s propaganda machine. This guy was also invited to speak about Turkey (he was the Wall Street Journal’s bureau chief in Istanbul for years and his published a book of Turkish history) at the University of Madison-Wisconsin by Turkish interests on April 24th of last year. The Greeks have no love for this guy. So, do you think Turkey’s public relations lackeys had nothing to do with this "timely" article? In New York, Turks held a counter protest, heckling and trying to disrupt our Hrant Dink vigil. We all know how "motivated" Turks in the U.S. are to engage Armenia’s. Clearly, that effort was instigated. Another instance of the Turkish government’s, and unfortunately society-at-large’s, prevailing mindset. Finally, even as I was writing this piece, I received the following link that speaks of the nationalist backlash to "leftists, Armenia’s, Kurds and those intellectuals who favor multiculturalism". (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070125/ap_on_re_mi_ea/turkey_nationalist_backlash) So while the funeral provided glimmers of hope, the overwhelming Turkish reality governmental and societal is still far from where it must be for true progress to occur on our outstanding issues. Speculation is also rife as to what the U.S. Congress will do about passing a Genocide commemoration resolution. Might Dink’s murder create a moral imperative that coupled with the power shift of the last election allow passage? But a largely unaddressed aspect of this tragedy is the internal, Armenian, ramifications it presents. We have been forced into a much more real relationship with Western Armenia, the remaining Armenia’s on those lands, and the Armenia’s living in Constantinople whose roots are all in that part of our country. Remember, Hrant Dink was actually born in Malatia. How many living Armenia’s can claim birth in our Western Armenia. Our roots are there, even many living in the Republic of Armenian (and even Javakhk). The Genocide was perpetrated on Western Armenian lands. Because of Armenia’s obvious and imperative needs, the Diaspora’s focus has shifted there since the Movement began in 1988. It must be a shared focusboth Eastern and Western Armenia are ours. Hrant Dink’s murder by Talaat’s heirs may have been the worst thing those soulless brutes could have done for their cause. If we’re smart, it’ll catalyze our outreach efforts to decent Turks, provide appropriate attention to Western Armenia, and continue state building in our Republic in preparation for the reunification of all Armenian lands and Armenia’s on them. Let’s do it!

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