Difference between revisions of "Hrant Dink"

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[[Image:Hrant_dink_2-crop.jpg|right|Hrant Dink]]
[[Image:Hrant_dink_2-crop.jpg|thumb|200px|Hrant Dink]]
Editor of '[[Agos]]' [[Armenian Language]] weekly in [[Istanbul]].
Editor of '[[Agos]]' [[Armenian Language]] weekly in [[Istanbul]].

Revision as of 11:23, 12 October 2006

Hrant Dink

Editor of 'Agos' Armenian Language weekly in Istanbul.

Hrant Dink was born in Malatya on 15.9.1954.

At the age of seven, he migrated to İstanbul together with his family.

He got his primary and secondary education in Armenian schools. Immediately after lyceum, he got married.

He graduated from Zoology Department of İstanbul University’s Science Faculty. Then he continued his education at Philosophy Department of the same universitiy’s Literature Faculty for a while.

Since 1996 he works as the columnist and editor-in chief of AGOS weekly newspaper which can be regarded as the voice of Armenian community.

He tries to make this newspaper a democrat and oppositional voice of Turkey and also to share the injustices done to Armenian community with public opinion.

One of the major aims of the newspaper is to contribute to dialogue between Turkish and Armenian nations and also between Turkey and Armenia.

He takes part in various democratic platforms and civil society organizations.

Armenian Journalist On Trial For 'Insulting Turks'

(AFP) - A Turkish court on Thursday began hearing a case against a journalist of Armenian descent on charges that he insulted Turks in remarks at a conference three years ago, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian-language weekly Agos, could face up to three years in prison if found guilty by the court in the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa where the conference on minorities and human rights was held.

Dink, who was not present at the hearing, told AFP from his office in Istanbul that he believed the suit stemmed from his response to a question on what he felt when, at primary school, he had to take an oath with which elementary school days begin in Turkey. The patriotic verse which all students in Turkey have to memorize and recite begins with the lines: "I am a Turk, I am honest, I am hardworking".

"I said that I was a Turkish citizen but an Armenian and that even though I was honest and hardworking, I was not a Turk, I was an Armenian," Dink explained. He said he also criticized a line in the Turkish national anthem that speaks of "my heroic race".

"I said I did not feel like singing that line because I was against the use of the word 'race', which leads to discrimination," Dink said.


Expanding minority rights is one of the issues Turkey must address before it can join the European Union, with which it is scheduled to start membership talks on October 3. Under the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, the founding accord of modern-day Turkey, Turkey recognizes Greeks, Jews and Armenians as religious minorities, but any attempt to put ethnic identity forward is still largely untolerated.

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Turkish Daily News
Oct 8 2005

Dink convicted of insulting Turkish identity
Saturday, October 8, 2005
ANKARA - TDN with wire services

An Istanbul court on Friday convicted Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant Dink of insulting Turkey's national identity, charges that Dink said he would fight, adding that he would leave the country if they were not overturned.

Earlier this week the European Union launched membership talks with Turkey -- talks that will include European demands that Turkey repeal laws such as the statute under which Dink, renowned novelist Orhan Pamuk and others have been charged.

Dink, a Turkish citizen and editor of the bilingual Armenian Turkish newspaper Agos, was convicted and given a six-month suspended sentence, which means he will not be forced to serve prison time unless he repeats the offense.

Dink has lived in Turkey all his life and was shown on television in tears as he denied the charges and vowed to fight them.

"I'm living together with Turks in this country," Dink told The Associated Press. "And I'm in complete solidarity with them. I don't think I could live with an identity of having insulted them in this country."

Dink was convicted for writing a series of articles in which he called on diaspora Armenians to stop focusing on the Turks and focus instead on the welfare of Armenia, said Karin Karakaþlý, an editor at Agos newspaper. Karakaþlý said Dink told Armenians their enmity toward the Turks "has a poisoning effect in your blood." She said the court took the article out of context, wrongly assuming it meant that Turkish blood is poison.

The court said Dink's article "was not an expression of opinion with the aim of criticizing but was intended to be insulting and offensive," the Anatolia news agency said.

Armenians have long demanded that Turkey and other nations recognize the deaths of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century as genocide. In the past, Turks could be prosecuted for agreeing with genocide claims, and a clause in the new penal code allows prosecutors to interpret statements harmful to Turkish identity as a crime.

The EU has asked Turkey to amend the clause or risk endangering its EU bid.

Turkey officially opened EU membership negotiations early Tuesday, but its bid is opposed by a majority of Europeans.

Dink, speaking in Turkish, said the sentence was an attempt to silence him.

"But I will not be silent," he said. "As long as I live here, I will go on telling the truth, just as I always have." Dink said he would appeal to Turkey's supreme court and to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

"If it is a day or six months or six years, it is all unacceptable to me," he said. "If I am unable to come up with a positive result, it will be honorable for me to leave this country."

Dink is also facing charges for remarks he made at a human rights conference in 2002, criticizing Turkey's national anthem and an oath taken by Turkish schoolchildren each day in which they say, "Happy is one who calls himself/herself a Turk.'

Dink said then that he did not feel like a Turk but like an Armenian who happens to be a citizen of Turkey. He also objected at the time to a line in the national anthem that says "smile upon my heroic race," saying the emphasis on race was a form of discrimination.

Dink will go to trial for those comments in February, Karakaþlý said.

Novelist Orhan Pamuk, perhaps Turkey's most acclaimed writer, has been charged under the same clause and will go on trial Dec. 16. Pamuk, whose offense was to say in an interview that "30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it," has also vowed to fight his charges.

The cases highlight the challenges still facing Turkey as it tries to enact reforms to harmonize with EU norms. The government has promised to lift restrictions on freedom of expression and has also committed to improving its treatment of minorities under its agreement with the EU.

Karakaþlý also faced similar charges but was found not guilty.

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By Reuters

New York Times
Dec 26 2005

ISTANBUL, Dec. 25 (Reuters) - A Turkish court has opened a case against an Armenian-Turkish journalist for his comments on a six-month sentence it gave him earlier for denigrating Turkish identity, lawyers involved in bringing the case said Sunday.

The Istanbul court was acting after a group of nationalist lawyers asked the court to file a case against Hrant Dink, editor in chief of the bilingual Turkish and Armenian weekly Agos, and three Agos journalists, saying that the journalists "tried to influence the judiciary" through their editorials.

Mr. Dink, an Armenian who was born in Turkey, was sentenced to six months in jail by an Istanbul court in October for comments in an article he wrote against Article 301 of a revised penal code, which allows prosecutors to pursue cases against writers and scholars for "insulting Turkish identity."

The case is now before the Court of Appeals, one of several such freedom of speech cases that have highlighted European Union concerns about Turkey's efforts to become a member.

European officials say that such court cases are likely to hinder Turkey's progress toward full membership.

About 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915 during World War I. While historians are widely agreed that the 1915 massacres constituted genocide, the subject remains taboo in Turkey, which says the killings were related to World War I clashes after Armenian militants joined forces with Russia.

The nationalist Lawyers Unity Association asked the court to bring the case against the four journalists, who face jail terms of nine months to 4½ years, if convicted.

"The case has been opened because Dink and the other writers of the Armenian Agos publication have criticized a former sentence of the court in an effort to prevent a just lawsuit, which is against Article 288 of the code," said the leader of the association, Kemal Kerincsiz.

Mr. Dink told the Anka news agency that it was his right to criticize the earlier verdict, adding he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if the Court of Appeals upholds the court ruling.

Orhan Pamuk, a best-selling Turkish novelist, is also facing a jail term of six months to three years from the same court for violating Article 301 for his comments in February to a Swiss magazine on the 1915 killings and on the deaths of Kurds in last two decades in Turkey. The case against Mr. Pamuk was filed at the request of the same lawyers group.

Last Thursday, the Istanbul court fined a writer for breaching Article 301 in a book on the evacuation of Kurdish, Armenian and Syriac Christian villages in the past 100 years, and a publisher for an article on Turkey's Iraq policy.

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The water finds its crack: an Armenian view of Turkey
Hrant Dink
13 - 12 - 2005

Europe and Turkey are locked in a relationship of mutual fear and suppressed desire. It will be opened when Turkey can face its greatest taboo, says the editor of the Armenian newspaper `Agos' in Istanbul, Hrant Dink.

The interest of foreign journalists, politicians and intellectuals in Turkey is more intense than ever. Their opening inquiries are clear and strong: `Where is Turkey going? Will nationalism increase? If it does, to what kind of a regime can Turkey slide?'

Then comes a special question, the one that people like me - a Turkish citizen and an Armenian - can always expect: `Are you minorities afraid of the way things are going?'

It is striking that those looking at Turkey from the outside are much more impatient, eager for quick answers and solutions, than those on the inside. To what degree is this impatience realistic? After all, throughout the period of the modern republic since 1923, Turkey is a country where changes have been dictated from top to bottom and thus one where inner dynamics from bottom to top are not easily activated. Turkish society is far more used to accepting change, allowing it to happen, than to initiating it.

This consistent structural character has allowed the `deep state' - the network of military and security forces that exercises real political control in Turkey - to survive the three major international developments influencing the country in recent decades.

First, the cold-war years of conflict (1940s-1980s) between the United States-led capitalist world and the Soviet Union-led socialist world. This external dynamic favoured the emergence of a radical, social left in Turkey, but the state's preference for western capitalism - aided by successive military coups d'état - crushed the left's challenge before it could become too powerful.

Second, the mullahs' revolution in Iran (1979). This external dynamic too had a harsh effect on Turkey; those in power instinctively saw its influence among religious Muslims in Turkey as equivalent to the demand for a change of regime, and thus something to be opposed by all means.

Third, the European Union (1960s-2000s). This outer dynamic is very different in its impact on Turkey than the first two. The main reason is that the EU finds nearly all elements of Turkish society and its institutions divided against itself on the issue. Political left and right, secular and religious, nationalist and liberal, state bureaucracy and military - the situation is the same in that everywhere there are internal conflicts over Europe at least as much as conflicts between the camps.

Since no part of Turkish society is homogeneously `for' or `against' the European Union, the EU process has had a singular effect: dissolving Turkey's existing polarisations and becoming itself the main inner dynamic of Turkish development. As the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU continue over the next decade, this dilemma will increasingly constitute the basis of Turkish politics. Every change experienced in the near future will `touch the skin' of nearly every section of society, creating widespread friction and probably a lot of annoyance.

From the inside, therefore, the questions facing Turkey are different from those posed by outsiders: `How can the oligarchic state, so accustomed to holding power, consent to share its sovereignty as a member of the European Union? Why is it so desperate to abandon the world it knows for an unknown future in Europe - is it the desire to be western, or the fear of remaining eastern?'

The great taboo

But the questions are not all one way. When the European Union is asked why it wishes to include Turkey, with its lower economic and democratic standards, the answer suggests an uncomfortable truth - that the relationship between Turkey and the EU is governed less by reciprocal desire than by fear. The military elite of the Turkish republic probably calculates that a Turkey unable to enter the European Union is in danger of becoming a strategical irrelevance, while the European Union's power-brokers must consider that a Turkey remaining outside of Europe might become a combatant on the other side of a `clash of civilisations'.

As long as the engine of fear pushing from the back is stronger than the engine of desire pulling from the front, the dynamics of Turkish-European Union relations will be uneasy and contested on all sides - not just in Turkey.

Where fear is dominant, it produces symptoms of resistance to change at all levels of society. The more some people yearn and work for openness and enlightenment, the more others who are afraid of such changes struggle to keep society closed. In Turkey, the legal cases against Hrant Dink, Orhan Pamuk, Ragýp Zarakolu or Murat Belge are examples of how the breaking of every taboo causes panic in the end. This is especially true of the Armenian issue: the greatest of all taboos in Turkey, one that was present at the creation of the state and which represents the principal `other' of Turkish national identity.

In this atmosphere, a guiding watchword can be found in the first words of our national anthem. Indeed, I concluded my presentation to the conference at Bilgi University, Istanbul on `Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy " on 24-25 September 2005 with these very words: `Do not fear'.

The real desire

The best contribution to the understanding of modern Turkey I can make at this stage is through a theme I developed at that Istanbul conference.

The relation between every living being and its area of existence is contained within it and (in the case of human beings) embodied in its very name. The animate is present, together with its area of living existence, inside and not outside this being. If you take this animate away from its area, even on a golden plate, it means that it is being cut at its very root. Deportation is something like that. People who lived on this territory for 3,000 years, people who produced culture and civilisation on this territory, were torn from the land they had lived on and those who survived were dispersed all over the world.

If this axe to the root dominates the psychological condition of generations of this people, you cannot simply act as if the rupture does not exist. The experience is already internalised, recorded on its people's memory, its genetic code. What is its name? The discipline of law can be preoccupied with this question, but whatever it decides we know exactly what we have lived through. It can be understood, even if I should not use the word genocide, as being a tearing up of the roots. There is nothing to do at this point, but this should be understood very well.

I would like to illustrate this internalising of experience with a personal anecdote from several years ago. An old Turkish man called me from a village in the region of Sivas and said: `Son, we searched everywhere until we found you. There is an old woman here. I guess she is from your people. She has passed away. Can you find any relative of her, or we will bury her with a Muslim service'. He gave me her name; she was a 70-year-old woman called Beatrice who had been visiting on holiday from France. `Okay, uncle, I will search', I said.

I looked around and within ten minutes I had found a close relative; we knew each other because we are so few. I went to the family's store and asked: `Do you know this person?' The middle-aged woman there turned to me and said `She is my mother'. Her mother, she told me, lives in France and comes to Turkey three or four times a year, but after a very short time in Istanbul prefers to go directly to the village she left many years earlier.

I told her daughter the sad news and she immediately travelled to the village. The next day she phoned me from there. She had found her mother but she suddenly began to cry. I begged her not to cry and asked her whether or not she will bring her body back for burial. `Brother', she said, `I want to bring her but there is an uncle here saying something', and gave the phone to him while crying.

I got angry with the man. `Why are you making her cry?', I said. `Son', he said, `I didn't say anything... I only said: `Daughter, it is your mother, your blood; but if you ask me, let her stay here. Let her be buried here...the water has found its crack'.'

I became thrown away at that moment. I lost and found myself in this saying produced by Anatolian people. Indeed, the water had found its crack.

A lady at the Istanbul conference implied that remembering the dead meant coveting territory. Yes, it is true that Armenians long for this soil. But let me repeat what I wrote soon after this experience. At the time the then president of Turkey, Suleyman Demirel, used to say: `We will not give even three pebblestones to Armenians.' I told the story of this woman and said: `We Armenians do desire this territory because our root is here. But don't worry. We desire not to take this territory away, but to come and be buried under it.'


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See also