January 2011 Hrant Dink Memorial

Hrant Dink Memorial Speech Prof. Taner Akcam

January 23, 2011 – Watertown, Massachusetts

The years pass and inevitably our relationship with the departed changes. Hrant is no longer just a person, a man. Hrant has become a symbol in Turkey but let there be no doubt, there are two Turkeys today. There s the Turkey that is represented by aggressive thugs and shameless bullies. And then there s our Turkey, the one that is united around Hrant s name. The Turkey that s characterized by thugs and bullies is the one I hold responsible for Hrant s death. They include members of the military, police and civil bureaucracy, in short, the state government itself. As new documents come to light each week, the depth of their brazenness, their willful aggression and shameless actions become even clearer. It is absolutely sickening; I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it. It appears that no one has clean hands and I say this without an ounce of doubt. Hrant Dink s assassination was Turkey’s most well planned, collective crime on record and from all appearances, not a single governmental organ is free from culpability. Everyone and I mean everyone, from the police, to the military, to the secret service and the civil bureaucracy, everyone, at every level of personnel had knowledge that Hrant was going to be killed and they all worked together to make sure it happened.

To put it in a nutshell, Hrant’s assassination was a hit job driven by the mentality that s dominated Turkey for years, the same mentality that provided the foundation for 1915. All you need to do is read Fethiye Cetin s report. It s all there. Just recently, two very important documents have been discovered. One was revealed during the ongoing investigation in Istanbul against the generals who were caught making preparations for a coup, code named Sledgehammer . You may recall, these generals had prepared a list of Agos readers and Armenians in Istanbul with the intention of targeting them for murder. They had also planned on bombing 3-4 mosques hoping to incite Muslims against Armenians, and then follow up with claims of an imminent Islamic fundamentalism threat in Turkey that would justify a military coup against the administration. Apparently, according to new found documents, the generals had placed Hrant s name on a hit list in 2003, a list of everyone they wanted killed, with Hrant s name holding a top position.

The second document involves General Veli Küçük, who is currently under arrest as part of the ongoing investigation on the Ergenekon matter. VEL KÜÇÜK is someone that Hrant kept saying he feared was out to get him. It s become clear that this Veli Küçük, prior to Hrant s murder, traveled to Trabzon and had countless meetings with the Trabzon regiment commander, someone who has been connected with the murderers. In short, it s become clear that this assassination was organized as a collective effort involving every organ of government AND that neither the Courts nor the State is lifting a finger to have the real murderers identified. We have learned a lot of details about the assassination during the past four years but there s one missing ingredient: JUSTICE. It would be wrong of me though, to not speak of the other Turkey today. The most recent memorial gathering in Hrant s name was larger, greater and more meaningful than ever. More than 10.000 people gathered in front of AGOS. Something new is happening in Turkey, something that seems to be snowballing in a way that is unprecedented in Turkey s history. No one has ever stood up to such a brazen crime and insisted on justice, the way individual Turkish citizens are doing today, in very large numbers, the size of which cannot be ignored and frankly, has to be disturbing to that other Turkey.

People feel drawn to the memorial in front of the Agos building, not only because of what Hrant Dink meant to them but because they hope to reclaim their humanity there. They go there to connect with like-minded others who find the political climate in Turkey intolerable. It s this lack of justice, this failure to satisfy our need for justice that has made Hrant a symbol. He s become the symbol for all injustice in Turkey, for all those crimes committed by unknown perpetrators over the years. The memorial held this January 19th attracted the family and friends of journalists and scholars who have been murdered. Another Turkey is coming out from hiding. This is our Turkey, the Turkey of Anatolia, the land of your heritage, our heritage. The historic land of Armenians. I d like to describe two other different events to you. The first was the Komidas concert in Istanbul. It took place on the day I arrived, December 16th, and the event was packed. There were at least one thousand in the audience. A presentation of his life was made and the events of 1915, the massacres and how he was arrested were all described. The Turkish minister of culture attended the event and stayed the entire time. I was introduced by Cengiz Çandar, a prominent journalist with the newspaper Radikal, and we chatted in a friendly way. Rita Kuyumcuyan who has written a very important scholarly book on Komidas life was there also. Her book has been translated into Turkish and she was there for the launch of it. During the concert, she whispered to me, Taner, pinch me so that I know I m not dreaming . There was a press conference for her book launch the following day and it received good media coverage. On another day I attended an exhibit on Armenian Architects that presented photographs and information on the many buildings in Istanbul that were the work of Armenian architects. Turkish media made the story of the exhibit front and center for almost 15 days straight. People were given the opportunity to learn about the extent of Armenians lives and contributions in Istanbul. The number of important buildings, mosques and palaces that were the work of Armenian architects astounded everyone.

I don t think I’m exaggerating when I say it was literally shocking for Turks to learn that some of the most significant landmark buildings in Istanbul were designed and built by Armenians. The exhibit showed them that what the Armenians had contributed to this legendary city AND they were an integral and inseparable part of the best of daily life in Istanbul. I heard from many friends of mine who visited the exhibit and they were universally awestruck by it. The common response was You mean the Armenians designed this one? They designed that one too? God bless them, honestly. It s like anything worth looking at in this city, they designed it! While I was very gratified by the positive response of the exhibit and very happy to see yet another sign that Turks are opening up to their past, I must admit it also seems so completely shameful that it took over 90 years to be able reveal something as obvious as this. This talk should end with some beautiful words though, but how does one do that? How does one keep hope alive? We are keeping Hrant s memory alive, someone who was a continuation of the Armenian reform and democracy movements that predated 1915. Hrant Dink merges the past with today. He is Martin Luther King of Turkey. Keeping his memory alive and respecting everything he stood for, have become part of the fight to get the genocide recognized. This is what we, Turks and Armenians, need to do each and every day. I thank you.