(an edited version of this appears on Global Voices Online)
The Biblical flood left Mount Ararat still, but a murdered journalist’s legacy has been moving mountains between Armenia and Turkey, two states separated by holy Ararat and an unholy history. After Hrant Dink’s January 19, 2007 assassination in front of his Istanbul office of Agos, an Armenian weekly he edited, thousands of Turkish citizens came to his funeral chanting, “We are all Hrant Dink; we are all Armenians.” The killing of one of Turkey’s few surviving indigenous Armenian Christian voices by a Turkish ultranationalist has shocked the world, but equally mesmerizing is the ignited hope for peace that lives on two years after Dink’s murder.
Setting the tone of Hrant Dink’s worldwide prominence, Gordon Taylor writes on his blog:
Today is not only Martin Luther King Day, and the day before Barack Obama’s inauguration. It is also the second anniversary of another murder.
18 Ocak’ta saat 15.00’te Galatasaray Meydanı’nda ‘O gün Biz de vurulduk’ temalı bir flashmob etkinliği yapılacak.There will be a flash mob demonstration with the theme “On that day we were also shot” at 3 p.m. on January 18 in [Istanbul’s] Galatasaray square. (translated by Amy Grupp).
Some photos from the flash mob demonstration are available at a Turkish site.
Cyber commemorations are also taking place. Over 1,700 members of the networking Facebook site, for instance, have posted Hrant Dink’s photo as their profile picture and updated their status to “We are all Hrant Dink,” an event hosted by my blog. Dozens of Turkish blogs have posts commemorating Dink.
Writing in Russian, Armenian journalist-blogger Mark Grigorian remembers Hrant Dink.
Он был одним из тех, кто пытался найти пути и способы примирить армян и турок…”Армяне — врачи турок, — продолжал он, — а турки — врачи армян. Нет других докторов. Диалог — вот единственный рецепт”.He tried to find ways of reconciling Armenians and Turks… “Armenians are Turks’ doctors,” he continued, “and Turks, Armenians’ doctors. There are no other doctors. Dialogue is the only recipe.”
Himself in exile in London, Grigorian says that Dink’s murder was followed with unparalleled progress in Armenian-Turkish relations: the first visit of the Turkish president to Armenia and an online apology by thousands of Turks to Armenians for their WWI extermination in the Ottoman Empire. Yet:
…проблема так велика, а пропасть между двумя народами так глубока, что сдвиги в сторону сближения вызывают у националистов негативную реакцию, а то и отторжение. Примером этого можно считать опубликованную в одной из турецких газет фотографию, на которой группа мужчин держит плакаты с надписями: “Собакам вход разрешен, евреям и армянам вход воспрещен “.…the problem is so great, and the division between the two nations so deep, that steps toward coming closer [to each other] bring about negative reactions among nationalists. One example is a [recent] photo published in a Turkish newspaper showing a group of men holding signs reading, “Dogs are allowed; Jews and Armenians are not allowed.”
While nationalism in Turkey is prominent, one Turk has made an unprecedented step toward reconciliation. His letter, posted on my Blogian, explains what he’s done:
When I found out that the properties that I and my brothers inherited from our father wasn’t our own, but properties taken from the murdered Assyrians in 1915 I felt an indescribable feeling of guilt and shame… I have personally apologized to every Assyrian and Armenian I’ve met. But this does not get rid of the crime our ancestors committed. Even if I am personally not responsible for what happened in 1915, I felt as I had to do more than just to apologize. Finally, I came to the decision to give back all properties that I inherited from my forefathers to [an Assyrian organization].
In death, Dink has also opened Armenian eyes. Armenian-American Mark Gavoor, while pondering Dink and Armenian-Turkish relations, says:
I, my family, we… were led to believe that Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] was both a communist and a womanizer.
…It strikes me very odd that many Armenians I knew growing up had a dislike for blacks. When I look back at both the Armenian Genocide and the life work of Martin Luther King, I am struck with one thing. Armenians for the most part focus on our own tragedy, almost exclusively. We can live in this great country and see little irony that we as disposed people live on the lands of disposed American Indians….
Incidentally, the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in the United States in 2009, celebrated the second Monday of January, coincides with Dink’s second anniversary. Two years ago, right after Dink’s murder, Canada-based Armenian blogger Vahe Balabanian compared the two:
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was shot… In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday.
Hrant Dink’s story still remains to be written in Turkey…his unwavering trust that we all would manage to live together in peace one day.
It is now Turkey’s turn to demonstrate its greatness by making Hrant Dink Turkey’s Martin Luther King.
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