Ten Thousand Gathered in Istanbul in Memory of Hrant Dink


On the first anniversary of the murder of journalist Hrant Dink, more than ten thousand people gathered in front of the Agos newspaper office, the place where he was shot.

On 19th January 2007, Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was shot dead in front of his office in Sisli, Istanbul. The country was shocked by pictures of his prostrate body on the pavement, covered by newspapers, with just the worn soles of his shoes visible. A voice of dialogue and democracy had been silenced.

Hrant Dink’s funeral turned into a reaction against racism and nationalism, as tens of thousands of people gathered in a silent procession which accompanied Hrant Dink’s body from his newspaper office to the church where he was laid to rest.

Last year a call to "question the darkness"
The most moving part of the procession was a speech by Hrant Dink’s widow, Rakel Dink. She spoke out against the increasing nationalism in the country. Referring to the young age of the suspected triggerman, she said: “Whatever may be the age of the murderers, 17 or 27, I know that they were born as babies. Without questioning the darkness that has created murderers, my brothers and sisters, there is no way forward.”

People carried placards reading “We are all Hrant, we are all Armenian”, a sign of solidarity, and also a protest at the fact that Hrant Dink was murdered for his identity. There was later a nationalist backlash against the slogan, with people deliberately misunderstanding the sentiment behind the expression of empathy.

No justice yet
In the year since the murder, the Dink family has had to discover that it is difficult to “question the darkness.” Although the official murder suspects are on trial, it seems clear that those really responsible are will not be prosecuted. The Trabzon Gendarmerie and the Istanbul Police are accused of gross negligence, as they knew of murder plans long before the attack happened. Evidence has been withheld and permission to investigate security officers has been refused.

"If he had lived, he would be in prison now"
Thus today’s gathering was as much a commemoration of Hrant Dink as a protest against the continuing darkness.More than ten thousand people gathered in the street of the Agos newspaper office, the place where Hrant Dink was shot.

The site of his murder was covered with a picture of Hrant Dink, candles and flowers. People shouted slogans such as “Long live the brotherhood of peoples” and “The murderer state will be made accountable.” Foreign press was in strong attendance.

Like last year, widow Rakel Dink addressed the crowd. Referring to Hrant Dink’s sentence under the controversial Article 301, she said: “They say, ‘who has gone to prison [under Article 301]?’ I say, if they had let my violin [her term of endearment for her husband] live, he would be in prison now, because if they had let him live, he would be in his third month in prison now.”

"You are here for justice"
She said that Hrant Dink’s blood had not become quiet: “The sound of blood can only be silenced with justice. And this is what you are here for today, for justice.”

Saying that “the pain has made us relatives,” Rakel Dink reminded the crowd of the many sickening indicators of approval of the murder: the gendarmerie officers arresting suspected triggerman O.S., who put a flag in his hand and took souvenir photographs of themselves with the suspect, football fans who reacted to the slogan at the funeral procession by shouting in stadiums, ‘We are all Ogün’ [referring to one of the murder suspects], the intelligence officer Muhittin Zenit who spoke to Erhan Tuncel , police informant and murder suspect, shortly after the murder and evidently knew of the murder plan.

Rakel Dink asked: “What has my country’s justice system done about the gendarmerie who knew everything up to the brand of the gun that was used in the murder, about the [nationalist organisations] who planned the murder? What has my country’s justice system done about the assistant governor and his so-called friends who tried to put my husband in his place?”

Writer and peace activist Arundhati Roy attended the commemoration at Rakel Dink’s side, also standing at the window of the Agos newspaper office.

"Hrant needs our courage"

Journalist Oral Calislar also spoke to the crowd. He said, “Hrant’s murder was planned by a group…We have realised that they decided long before to kill him…The newspapers made him into a target…at the court hearings [for his trial under Article 301] they tried to lynch him.”
“We now know those who are putting guns into the hands of children…We know those who led and encouraged. It needs courage to make the murderers and organisations within the state accountable. Hrant needs our courage.”

The gathering was joined by Joost Lagendijk, co-chair of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Turkish academics, politicians and activists of the left, writers and journalists. (EÖ/TK/AG)