By Ahmet Altan, July 9, 2007 (translated from Turkish)

I met Taner Akcam at an American university city where the winters are long and harsh.
I had heard of him many times.

He was one of the leaders of an old legendary left wing organization.
And, he did not care about any ‘title, name, or class’ of anyone, including his, as he only defined people by their ‘deeds.’

You were a man as much as your deeds.

He was joyful, humorous, and would not complain even under difficult circumstances.
At the university, he was teaching history, I, literature.

During the long winter nights, we would meet sometimes, and he would tell me about his life experiences with a sense of humour exclusive to him.

He had attempted to “democratize” his illegal leftist organization and as a result he had made himself an enemy of his own organization.

He had criticized the anti-democratic stand of the PKK, had been included in the ‘death list’ of the organization, and in an attack, one of his friends had been mistakenly killed.
He would really be moved by sorrow while talking about that.

He was an exceptionally meticulous man.

When he was telling me how he would regularly load up his luggage with detergent bottles before travelling illegally to the Bekaa Valley camp, he would foreground not the difficulties he endured, but the “entertaining contradictions of life.”

He was a leader who carried detergent cleaners, not weapons.

He was researching the deportations of the Armenians executed by the Committee of Union and Progress at that time and he was emphasizing that this amounted to ‘genocide’.

What he claimed so openly and clearly was a difficult thing to do for a Turk at that time.
But he believed in what he spoke, and he spoke what he believed.

Of course he knew that what he was talking about would get him into trouble and he lwas not ooking for trouble, but it was not in his nature to keep quiet in order to avoid trouble, it was not in his nature to shut up about things that he believed.

He would list the actions of the Ittihadists one by one.

He was earning respect with his courage and honesty.

Then I returned home.

He went to another university in the United States.

He wrote new books, he made new enemies.

I received an e-mail from Taner recently.
One line specifically was frightening:
‘First it was Hrant, and I think they put me second in line.’

I remembered Hrant’s last editorial before he died, where he wrote ‘they will kill me’.
We had learned about a murder plot –known almost by the entire state apparatus, documented in intelligence reports numerous times– only after the murder.

No one could help Hrant.

No one had the opportunity or the time to cry that ‘the murder is coming’.

And our ‘lack of awareness’ had cost Hrant his life.

Now Taner was saying, ‘they put me next in line, I guess’.

Hrant’s murder showed us that the State would condone even new murders in order to cover up the sins of the Ittihadists.

That is why alarm bells rang inside me in a more scary fashion when I read Taner’s mail.
It is obvious that ‘that voice, the instict’ which warned Hrant before his murder is now warning Taner.

And he senses the gun being aimed at him.

Are they going to kill Taner for saying ‘Armenians were subjected to genocide’?

Don’t people of our society have the right to say what they believe about our own history?

Does everybody have the obligation to speak in the same way as the state?
Is death the price to pay for not sharing the state views and theses on our history?
Which discussion on history can be punished by death?

Are you going to kill every single person who says ‘Armenians were subjected to genocide’?

If you commit this murder, will the bloodshed prove that ‘there was no genocide’?

It is the very spirit of Ittihadists that is going arounf in this country, they go on killing the Armenian, the Sunni, the Protestant, the Kurd, indiscriminately.

How much longer will this go on?
How much longer will people be killed?

This state and this society could not protect Hrant.
Let us at least protect Taner.
He is a brave and an honest man.
He uttered what was most difficult in this country. He spoke because he believed.
I believe any man who speaks his mind knowing that will put him in trouble deserves respect, regardless of what he believes in.

Death is lingering around his door now.

There are so many newspapers, so many journalists, so many intellectuals in this country; will no one speak up to protect Taner?

Never forget.

Our silence will kill Taner.

If anything happens tomorrow, we will be all complicit.

Protect a person.

Do this so that you can say ‘I am too a human being’.
If you don’t…then you carry your silence like death all your life.