Saturday, January 20, 2007

Prayers for Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist who spoke out against the Armenian Genocide, and was killed for his trouble
Mavi Zambak, Asianews

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Hrant Dink, Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, was killed this afternoon around 3 p.m. local time, as he left the offices of the newspaper he directed. He was shot four times by, it is thought, a young man of 18 or 19 years who then fled through the crowd of one of the busiest streets of the European quarter of Istanbul, Sisli.

Dink, age 53, had been given a six-month suspended sentence by judges in Istanbul in October 2005 for having "insulted Turkish national identity." Editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Agos, Dink had been tried for an article he wrote in 2004 on the genocide of the Armenians. His murder is a shock for all Turks: an improntu protest took place among those who gathered at the doorway where he was shot; protesters shouted "Hrant is not dead, his freedom shall not die."

In a television interview broadcast shortly after the shooting, his friend and fellow journalist, Aydin Engin, who had been sentenced together with Dink on the basis of the same article 301 of the Turkish penal code, recalled how just yesterday the two had spoken on the telephone about their six-month sentence, which had simply been postponed indefinitely, but had not been definitively suspended. And how Hrant said that he was not afraid and was ready for anything. Aydin had urged him many times to accept the bodyguard that police had promised him after the latest threats made against him, but Hrant once again refused saying that he did not want to be defended in his freedom and that he did not fear the dangers he faced.

Engin recalls his colleague as a man who always spoke openly about the search for truth, freedom and democracy. "All of Turkey has been wounded by this assassination, it is a source of mourning for the entire nation," Engin said without hesitation; he sees in this murder a further attempt by those who are against Turkey's entry into Europe to arouse indignation against Turks among Europeans. Various government figures have explicitly condemned this horrible occurrence. President Sezer himself said without hesitation that it was a "brutal" act.

In an emergency press conference organized in Ankara, Turkish Premier Erdogan said: "The spilling of this blood has left us dumbfounded and this act was certainly committed to destroy our peace, freedom and democracy. In the name of the Turkish people and nation, I condemn this act and everything will be done to find those responsible. I deplore those who have bloodied their hands. We do not accept this provocation which aims at destroying the unity of this country and creating contrasts between the different cultures and religions of Turkey. Nothing is known about who committed this murder, nor what motivated it, but I can already say that I will do everything possible to take part in the funeral of our journalist, wherever and with whatever rite it is held."

The Armenian Genocide occurred from 1915 to 1917 under the government of the Young Turks. In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered WWI on the side of the Central Powers, attacked Russia, and lost very, very, very badly. The army was all but wiped out, and General Enver accused the Armenians of treason. The Turkish government ordered the Armenians deported and forced into labor camps, and their goods siezed.

Most of the recruits were executed. Like the Nazi government later did, the Ottoman government created a bureaucracy to oversee the Armenians' deportation and mass execution. In fact, they released hardened criminals from their central prison to for the bureaucracy. Many were in for murder.

The present Turkish government denies that it constitutes a genocide, although there are an increasing number of Turkish scholars who disagree. Western historians generally agree that it was a genocide. The Turkish government claims that 300,000 Armenians were killed. The Armenians claim 1,500,000. Arnold Toynbee of the British Foreign Office estimated 6-800,000. (There's apparently some sort of heated discussion on the article's neutrality, and the page is locked from editing.)

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