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Hrant Dink Murdered in Istanbul
January 19, 2007 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Hrant Dink, Armenian Newspaper Editor, Murdered in Istanbul an ethnic Armenian newspaper editor that was sentenced to 6 months in jail for "insulting Turkishness" by discussing the Armenian Genocide in Turkey was shot dead while leaving his newspaper office today.
posted by k8t (44 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dink has been a frequent target of nationalist anger for his comments on the Genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I. A witness says that the assailant looked about 20, wore jeans and a cap and shouted "I shot the non-Muslim" as he left the scene. The Turkish PM said: "The bullets that shot Hrant Dink today are in fact bullets fired for the unity of our nation." The EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said he was "shocked and saddened" by the killing and called Dink "a campaigner for freedom of expression in Turkey." Armenians around the world are angry.
posted by k8t at 10:30 AM on January 19, 2007


Is this why we can't have nice things?
posted by pax digita at 10:35 AM on January 19, 2007


I think Erdogan was misinterpreted. Here is the statement:

"Chief editor of Agos Newspaper Hrant Dink has become an innocent victim of an obnoxious murder on Friday afternoon. Shady forces have once more chosen our country to reach their ill desires. The bullets that shot Hrant Dink today are in fact bullets fired for the unity of our nation. I have already commissioned the minister of justice as well as the minister of internal affairs to capture the assassin.
We have lived on these lands together for many centuries. No ill plot can ruin Turley's unity. I believe Turkish and Armenian citizens have the common sense to recover from such treachery."

I believe the meaning was "bullets fired [at or against] Turkish unity." Reading the statement, it's quite clear that Erdogan is not pro-assassination.
posted by Mister_A at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2007


...especially since the paper misspelled the country's own name in the translation.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2007


Turkey - this kind of thing is why fucking Bulgaria is part of the EU and you aren't.
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


More background from OpenDemocracy.

And you can bet that there will be battles on his Wikipedia page.
posted by k8t at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2007


I feel for Turkey.
We experienced somewhat similar political murders in recent years in the Netherlands.
People getting shot because of their conviction is very harmful for the political process.
posted by jouke at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2007


Thanks Mr. A, I think that you're right.
posted by k8t at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2007


And good luck Turkiye, sevi seviyorum. I hope you get through this without innocent people getting blown to bits.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2007


er seni
posted by nathancaswell at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2007


What nathancaswell and jouke said. Turkey is such a wonderful country with such potential; but man, does it need to get its shit together. Turkiye, seni seviyorum - good luck!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:49 AM on January 19, 2007


He was shot for conspicuous soap consumption.
posted by MapGuy at 10:58 AM on January 19, 2007


Being a newspaper editor with opinions is tough even in Canada. I hope Turkey does get its shit together.
posted by Listener at 11:06 AM on January 19, 2007


that's really sad. Turkey seems like a great country with lots of potential except for its steadfast denial of the Armenian genocide.
posted by bhouston at 11:15 AM on January 19, 2007


The BBC's version translates the PM's statement thus:
"A bullet has been fired at democracy and freedom of expression," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a hastily convened news conference.
I'm guessing that's a different English version of the same original; but in any event it makes his position clear.
I was only vaguely aware of Hrant Dink, what I knew largely came from reading about Orhan Pamuk facing prosecution for 'insulting Turkish identity', where reference was made to the similar charges against Dink. It strikes me that the Turkish state might be in a better position to decry such murders if the penal code didn't pander to the kind of sentiments led to this murder. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to strike out Article 301.
posted by Abiezer at 11:21 AM on January 19, 2007


According to the Wikipedia discussion page, Turks are protesting in the streets.

"People started to organize protest meetings. They are walking to Osmanbey (where Dink was murdered) from Taksim. Fedayee, there have been some wild periods in the Turkish dynamics but it is really sad to see the death of a citizen, an educated person. It is sad too loose a bridge between Armenia and Turkey but now he is death and our duty as Wikipedians is to honour him with a nice article. Deliogul 18:58, 19 January 2007 (UTC)"
posted by k8t at 11:30 AM on January 19, 2007


Thanks for posting this, k8t. It's so disheartening.
posted by jdl at 11:57 AM on January 19, 2007


It's not just the Armenians. The Turks are screwing the Kurds too. Just sayin'.
posted by geekhorde at 12:17 PM on January 19, 2007


I think it's a tribute to the high-minded discourse on this site that nobody's making fun of the guy's name yet.

...what? That counts? Shit.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:19 PM on January 19, 2007


Hrant is the Armenian equal to the name Grant. It is pronounced Her-rant (rhymes with want, not rant).
posted by k8t at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2007


There are right wing groups in Turkey who oppose the open discussion of the Armenian tragedy, but this murder is most likely not the work of the Turkish government, and this is not the reason that Turkey is being locked out of the EU. If ethnic terror was a bloc to EU membership then the Basques would have ruined Spain's chances and the Corsicans would have ruined Italy's. the situation of the Kurds in Turkey is much better than it used to be - Kurdish schooling and broadcasts are now common - and most Turkish Kurds destest the PKK for trying to screw up what they have gained.

Modern Turkey is dancing on a tight rope between secular modernism - supported by groups as disparate as the army and radical feminists - and a form of Islamic revivalism of a stripe much less Wahabist than that in much of the rest of the middle east. The issue of the Armenians - as well as that of the Greeks of Anatolia and the Black Sea - is a very loud elephant they have in the living room. It is discussed quite openly in public. The publishing of that debate in print is what gets the oddball nationalists in a tizzy.

This is no longer the Turkey of Ataturk's day, which, in fact, was already not the Ottoman Empire. It was the Ottoman state which carried out the massacres of Armenians, and, in fact, did so mainly by alowing the local Kurdish tribes to go as irregular, looting "bashi bozuks" against them at a time when Turkish troops were occupioed on other fronts in WWI.

Turks often seem bemused that the post 1923 Turkish Republic - a secular, ethnically defined nationalist state - is held to account for the deeds of the Ottoman Empire - a multi-ethnic theocratic Empire. Sort of like expecting Austria to accept responsibility for the Bosnian War.
posted by zaelic at 12:56 PM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


While it is true that the Ottoman State carried out the Genocide, couldn't the current Turkish Republic perhaps apologize for what it's previous incarnation did? I don't think that accountability is the issue. Merely discussing the issue could resolve a lot of the issues in the air.
posted by k8t at 1:01 PM on January 19, 2007


From what I saw in Turkey the core issue is a problem of mentality.

Ataturk's modernization campaign relied on severe disassociation from the Ottoman Empire (changing the alphabet, banning old words, etc). Essentially Ataturk is "Turkishness" personified and therefore that dissociation with the Ottoman Empire is tied to the modern Turkish identity.

On top of that, because Ataturk is so revered for his secular reforms among the educated, liberal class, you end up having a very atypical divide with the very people who you would expect to have a problem with penal codes penalizing people for "insulting Turkishness" in fact are very tolerant of the laws because they, in some way, help protect the secularization that is so important to them.

The sense that I got living with a very well-to-do family in Istanbul was that the aristocracy in Turkey fears the erosion of the secular reforms above all. That's why you get things like headscarves being banned in Universities when one might think such freedoms would be protected there before anywhere else.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:21 PM on January 19, 2007


zaelic writes "This is no longer the Turkey of Ataturk's day, which, in fact, was already not the Ottoman Empire. It was the Ottoman state which carried out the massacres of Armenians...

"Turks often seem bemused that the post 1923 Turkish Republic - a secular, ethnically defined nationalist state - is held to account for the deeds of the Ottoman Empire - a multi-ethnic theocratic Empire..."


This is a good, and very tricky, point. It's difficult even to say that "the Ottoman state" carried out the genocide, because that state, during the period of the war, was in utter chaos, having just undergone a revolution and the imposition of a new psuedo-constitutional, psuedo-military government. I don't pretend to understand the history of that era; while I'm fascinated with Turkish/Ottoman history, the events surrounding the dissolution of the Ottoman state are so complex and chaotic that I think it would take years to get a handle on them.

I think one problem is that with the founding of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk tried to hit the "reset" button on the region's political history. It was a completely novel state, a new Turkish nation, and the past was the past, completely and utterly. This seems fundamental to the national consciousness of Turkey.

If you're looking for the institutional continuity necessary to place blame for events of the past, I think one interesting place to look might be the military. On the one hand, good luck getting them to apologize. On the other hand, few institutions in Turkey are more vigorously pro-Western and pro-secularism.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:25 PM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


High five mr_roboto!
posted by nathancaswell at 1:27 PM on January 19, 2007


Turks often seem bemused that the post 1923 Turkish Republic - a secular, ethnically defined nationalist state - is held to account for the deeds of the Ottoman Empire - a multi-ethnic theocratic Empire.

"Bemused"?
They prosecute people for merely asserting that the genocide happened. I think the rationale is that it besmirches the honor of the Turkish people, although one has to doubt whether there can be much honor left in the not-being-responible-for-genocide department.
posted by sour cream at 1:49 PM on January 19, 2007


Um, sour cream, there's frequently a difference between the stance of the government and the stance of certain people within that nation.

...or are you saying you're personally responsible for banning the sale of dildos in Texas, and for outlawing the cohabitation of unmarried couples in North Dakota?

Because if you are, we're going to have words on those topics, to say nothing of how you got us into Iraq.

No? So why are you assuming all Turks want to prosecute people for talking about the Armenian genocide?
posted by aramaic at 2:11 PM on January 19, 2007


Good thoughtful thread people.

Zaelic: you just solved a tension that has been dormant in my brain since the days, long ago, when I read Tintin. Finally I know where that invective used by Captain Haddock came from; bashi bozuk!
posted by jouke at 2:48 PM on January 19, 2007


Hrant Dink was a principled man who had the courage of his convictions. Today's incident is saddening beyond words.

Part of the reason for Turkey's reticence to even approach this debate has to do with the continuity between the cadres of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic. People implicated in the forced exile of Armenians, a process that was extremely violent and cost the lives of so many, continued on and held important positions under the Republic. The Ottoman administration, as it was coming apart, recognized the atrocity to some extent and even tried to prosecute those responsible, a stance not shared by the Republic. But as many of you have already acknowledged the story is complex and until historians/researchers who are divested from the emotionally and ideologically charged atmosphere and who can reconstruct the interventions and interests of multiple players involved in the region at the time come around, it will probably remain unresolved and troubling.

(Just a correction, Zaelic: Although your point about ethnic strife remains valid Corsica is not in Italy, but France.)
posted by zany pita at 3:28 PM on January 19, 2007


Turks often seem bemused that the post 1923 Turkish Republic - a secular, ethnically defined nationalist state - is held to account for the deeds of the Ottoman Empire - a multi-ethnic theocratic Empire. Sort of like expecting Austria to accept responsibility for the Bosnian War.

Uh, the difference is that you can talk about the Bosnian War in Austria without being prosecuted or assassinated. I find the whole "it was the Ottomans!" defense bewildering; if the Atatürk regime was so new and different and innocent, why did they have a problem saying "Yeah, the Armenian genocide was a terrible thing, and Turks will never commit such crimes again"? If Atatürk for some reason had a problem with that, why don't current Turks say it? It's as if postwar Germany, instead of repenting for the Holocaust, refused to admit it or talk about it and prosecuted anyone who did. Let's have a little clarity here.
posted by languagehat at 3:32 PM on January 19, 2007


I think that to some extent the sharp divide between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey functions as an convenient excuse to not address the issue of the Armenian genocide. The real reasons being extraordinarily complicated and political, but perhaps boiling down to the fear of the Republic being fractured among ethnic lines.

When you have the Kurdistan Worker's Party, the terrorist group known as the PKK (which Turkey, rightly or not, blames for the deaths of nearly 30,000 people), with the stated goal of forming a Kurdistan in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, forming an alliance with the ASALA, The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, which wanted to create an Armenian state, it's easy to see why the Turkish government would be reluctant to admit responsibility for events that might set in motion the destruction of a Republic that's less than 100 years old.

Anyway, I'm now operating at the very limits of my knowledge and will cede to the more well-informed.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:57 PM on January 19, 2007


He was shot for conspicuous soap consumption.

What does this mean?

The bullets that shot Hrant Dink today are in fact bullets fired for the unity of our nation. ... [vs] ... A bullet has been fired at democracy and freedom of expression.

There is a pretty big difference between "at" and "for", but it's the kind of mistake that's easy to make for a bad translator.
posted by delmoi at 3:58 PM on January 19, 2007


It isn't as big a difference if he actually said "bullets fired meant for the unity of our nation" or something along those lines. Well, still a huge difference, but a smaller mistake in the translation.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:02 PM on January 19, 2007


it's easy to see why the Turkish government would be reluctant to admit responsibility for events that might set in motion the destruction of a Republic that's less than 100 years old.

But they don't have to "admit responsibility" for them! No one would expect them to, since they are in no sense the lineal descendents of the Ottomans; the Young Turks kicked out the Ottomans, and Atatürk evicted the Young Turks. All they'd have to do is say "At an earlier stage in the long and varied history of the Turkish people, under another government altogether, terrible things were done; fortunately the Bad People who did them were given the boot, and we now enjoy the tolerant and humane rule of a democratic government." Why can't they bring themselves to do that?

Incidentally, it's one of the blacker ironies of history that the Kurds were used by the Turks to help butcher the Armenians; once the Armenians were no longer a threat, the Turks turned on the Kurds.
posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on January 19, 2007


This issue is so black and white in the west, the media does not entertain any possibility other than the Armenian perspective which has been repeated so often that it's simply held to be true. As an ethnic Turk, I grew up with a different explanation for what happened. Count me among those who think that the historical facts are not yet settled and let me explain why.

The circumstances of that period were utterly chaotic. The county was losing a war. Large components of the eastern Armenian minority had allied with orthodox Russia at a time that the integrity of the state was in great danger. In fact, huge numbers of Turks were killed by Armenians, a fact that remains unheralded in the Christian west. This might be why the Armenian state has up till this point refused to grant historians access to their archives--they have nothing to gain by complicating the picture.

I think the question of how people died is a relevant one. The Turks maintain that the majority of Armenians died on long forced marches--of starvation, of disease, of exposure to cold. Im sure Armenians were also lined up and executed... it's hard to know what percentage died by what method, but what's clear is that there was a great difference between what happened to the Armenians and what happened to the Jews. The Holocaust was carried out in a highly coordinated manner by a central power. In the case of the Ottoman empire, the killing was not a directed policy of the state.

Hitler justified his program by pointing to the obscurity of the Armenian genocide, how history had forgotten about them. For that reason alone it's tremendously important to hold people responsible in the eyes of history. I'm not saying that nothing happened, just that it was complicated. And what's interesting about history is that the primary sources were written by English and American Christians who held openly disparaging views of the Turks, and had naked ambitions to occupy Asia Minor, a strategically vital territory. I'm just saying that there should be a reasonable skepticism about these primary sources.
posted by mert at 7:23 PM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that the realities at the time were more complex than the summaries I've read, mert, but I think you're mistaken if you think international opinion is married to one particular interpretation of history.
It's the outlawing of all public debate on the issue by the state that stands out to me, and adds to the sense that there's something to hide. I don't imagine the authorities are involved in this murder, but they are enforcing laws that to an extent legitimise its apparent motivation. They and the murderer both believed Dink needed to be punished for his words; they differed over the severity and process.
It appears that in Turkey, Armenians can't ask "the question of how people died," and that is clearly wrong.
posted by Abiezer at 10:16 PM on January 19, 2007


"It's the outlawing of all public debate on the issue by the state that stands out to me, and adds to the sense that there's something to hide."

Hear hear.
posted by geekhorde at 10:57 PM on January 19, 2007


I'm with languagehat on this. It's interesting to compare the difference between the discussion of this issue as opposed to that of Japan's WW2 atrocities- Japan gets a lot of criticism for never making a direct apology, for not facing up to their history in the way Germany has, and for the whole Yasukuni thing, and rightly so, for the most part. Turkey, meanwhile, not only has not made even an indirect apology, but officially denies the Armenian Genocide even happened and throws people in prison for saying it did, and yet the reaction both in this discussion and on the world stage seems to be, for the most part, much more muted and forgiving of Turkey than is the case with Japan, and I'm not really sure why.

And mert- even if I were to grant the truth of what you say, and I don't ultimately know enough about it to say one way or another, I don't think it really would change much. It may be true that the Armenian Genocide was a complex affair, and that it was much less official and organized than the Holocaust, but the same could just as easily be said of the Rape of Nanking. To me, the most relevant facts here are that a very large number of Armenians died at Turkish hands, and the Turkish government today not only denies it but imprisons people for stating it. When a country has an atrocity of that magnitude in their history, I think that facing up to it and atoning for it should be the first priority. I can only hope that Turkey will do so, in the end, and that Hrant Dink's life and death will not have been in vain.
posted by a louis wain cat at 11:01 PM on January 19, 2007


Gagwatch on Turkey and Reporters without Borders. Hrant Dink was a tireless campaigner for the basic right of Free Speech within a Democratic society. However Turkey has a dark side.
posted by adamvasco at 1:44 AM on January 20, 2007


Of course, I agree compeletely that the outlawing of public debate on this issue is wrong--not just wrong, but one of the fundamental impediments to that society's maturation.
posted by mert at 2:29 AM on January 20, 2007


The atmosphere I noticed in Istanbul last summer - albeit among intellectual types - regarding the trials of Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak for "insulting the Turkish nation" by publishing disussions of the Armenian genocide was interesting. The history of the Armenian Genocide was openly accepted as historical fact by almost everybody I spoke with - including a rather conservative mullah from Erzerum in eastern Turkey, one of the former Armenian regions. Kurds reffered to it openly when discussing the histopry of the kurdish situation. At the same time, I heard` Turkish intellectuals using the term "Catastrophe" regarding the exile of the Greek population - which is the term used by Greeks in the greek language.

The only exception was that of the wife of a Turkish diplomat... who was friendly until I quoted Pamuk on a topic having nothing to do with politics. Then she sputtered to a stop.... Clearly, her end of the diplomatic corps didn't like Pamuk.

One thing about publishing in Turkey... for a country with such a large population, not many people buy books. Publishing runs are amazingly small. The scandals surrounding the publication of "books insulting the Turkish nation" are thought to be the work of a few "activist judges" and their nationalist cronies. A lot of the Turkish right wing is angry about the snub they got from the European Union, and they use the law to rub the secular progressives' noses in it by

All they'd have to do is say "At an earlier stage in the long and varied history of the Turkish people, under another government altogether, terrible things were done; fortunately the Bad People who did them were given the boot, and we now enjoy the tolerant and humane rule of a democratic government." Why can't they bring themselves to do that?

Language Hat: My guess is that the cult of Ataturk is so strong that admitting to the details of what the Young Turks were up to would besmirch his status, which is simply not done in Turkey. The young Turks are seen as the legitimizing bridge between Ottoman Empire and a nationalist Turkish state, and Enver Pasha is seen as a heroic precursor to Ataturk. this is from the Wikipedia article on Armenian Genocide:

However, from 1910-1912 the leadership of the Young Turks split into several parts lead by two main factions: one element known as the Liberal Union remained committed to liberalizing the country and establishing equal status amongst all minorities and the second more radical, racist element the Committee of Union and Progress, headed by a triumvirate: Ismail Enver, Mehmed Talat Pasha and Ahmed Djemal.[6] The CUP rejected the Liberal Union's ideals and assumed full leadership of the country after assassinating the Minister of War, Nazim Pasha, a Union member in January 1913.

Later, the wiki article discusses the political brush up between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Armenian President Kocharyan:

In March 2005, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invited Turkish, Armenian and international historians to form a Commission to establish the events of 1915. In April 2005 Armenian president Robert Kocharyan responded to Turkish Prime Minister's offer by sending a letter to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and in the letter telling "suggestion to address the past cannot be effective if it deflects from addressing the present and the future. In order to engage in a useful dialog, we need to create the appropriate and conducive political environment. It is the responsibility of governments to develop bilateral relations and we do not have the right to delegate that responsibility to historians. That is why we have proposed and propose again that, without pre-conditions, we establish normal relations between our two countries.” In that context, President Kocharian said, “an intergovernmental commission can meet to discuss any and all outstanding issues between our two nations, with the aim of resolving them and coming to an understanding.” The letter sent by President Kocharian to Prime Minister Erdogan in April 2005 remains ignored."[
posted by zaelic at 6:35 AM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


nathancaswell, I had some of the same thoughts as you while I was there in May.

Has anyone read Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk? It just won the 2006 Nobel for literature. Let me put it this way... I've never seen the word "melancholy" used so many times in a sentence. I think 1/3 of the words in the entire book were just different forms of "melancholy."

Turkey seemed to me to be a very confused country. They want SO MUCH to be western & in the EU & they cling to Ataturk's visions. But women are still rarely seen in cafes during the day, and that alone makes the transformation far from complete. There's more to change than airbrushing out your dark past & putting on a suit. The evidence of powerful Ottoman history, where they conquered so much of the world, has systematically been burned to the ground and swept away. I took tours where the details of the Ottomans were actually changed to make them sound better. (Things like "Harem means family!" and "What is this Cage you ask of? There was never such a thing." Oh, uh... really?)

It felt to me like people want so much to be western, and to abide by Ataturk's visions... but I'm not sure they really grasp what "western" actually is. Pardon this comparison but it makes me think of kids who play dress up... they have a glamorized version of what will make them something and they put a lot of effort into it, but there's a lot more to becoming what they're aiming for than that. So, there's a good chance that maybe they'll never get there.

In Egypt, if you have Turkish blood you are actually considered higher class. But in much of Europe, it's the equivalent of being lower class Mexican here in California. I just don't know how the Turkish can change that attitude & gain the acceptance they long for. It may be impossible, I have a hard time imagining it ever happening.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:09 AM on January 20, 2007


[Dink's murder was] a major blow to Turkey, Turkishness and humanity ... No greater insult could have been made against Turkey and the Turkish identity. No greater blow could have been dealt to Turkish democracy and Turkey's international prestige. This murder, which was committed by the true enemies of Turkishness, will unfortunately cost Turkey very dearly.
From this BBC roundup of reaction in the Turkish press. They also report a suspect has been detained.
posted by Abiezer at 3:05 PM on January 20, 2007


The current Islamicist government is highly motivated to make an issue of these killings because it suits their political aims of weakening the ultra-right wing nationalist groups that are opposed to the Islamicization of Turkey.
posted by mert at 11:14 PM on January 20, 2007


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