Monday, January 22, 2007

The Hrant Dink Assassination as a Turning Point

Hrant Dink (Source: European Academy Berlin)

There are two ways to read the recent murder of the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. Some fear that this is the beginning of an open season on those who, like Dink, challenge the ultra-nationalist vision of Turkey. On the other hand, the public and literary condemnations of the murder may also signal the self-assertion of Turkish liberals.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the murder in the strongest terms, but critics objected to the manner in which this condemnation was framed, especially in parts of the Armenian diaspora.

"A bullet has been fired at democracy and freedom of expression," Erdogan announced shortly after news of Dink's assassination reached him. But Dink had been prosecuted for exercising his freedom of expression under the infamous article 301 of Turkey's penal code. Prior to his murder, Dink and other Turkish citizens who spoke out against the denial of the Armenian Genocide, discrimination against Kurds, and the lack of tolerance in their society more generally, had been attacked in many of the same newspapers who now claimed that the murder had been a strike against Turkey. These declarations also masked the truth that Dink was singled out as an Armenian by his killer.

But the Turkish media also contained reflections on Turkish society's wider responsibility for Dink's death. Mehmet Ali Birand wrote in the Turkish Daily News that "301 killed Hrant Dink." Omer Taspinar, in Today's Zaman, declared that
We are all complicit in Hrant Dink’s murder. Turkey’s conspiracy-prone public debate is increasingly producing an anti-European, anti-American, anti-Kurd, anti-Armenian and anti-liberal nationalism.
He denounced the witch-hunt against Turkish liberals:
Our incorrigible sense of insecurity has turned the founding ideology of the republic into an aggressive reflex against perceived enemies - -- enemies that we often create in our own imagination. How else can one explain the trials of Orhan Pamuk, Elif Safak and Hrant Dink in 2006? What about the shameful treatment of Professor Atilla Yayla for simply voicing an opinion?
And called out Justice Minister Cemil Cicek

who not too long ago blamed the organizers of a conference on the Armenian question for “stabbing the Turkish nation in the back.”
Nevertheless, the more liberal voices in Turkey are well aware of the real and imaginary threats firing nationalist passions in their country. PKK terrorism in southeastern Turkey continues to worry the country's leaders, and the week before the Hrant Dink assassination, Turkey saw a marked escalation in the rhetoric about Kirkuk, from where Iraqi oil is pumped to Ceyhan (see SPIEGEL for more).

1 comment:

Zach said...

Oh the tragic irony of those who, upset allegations that they have been murderous and brutal towards Amermenians in the past, reply by brutally murdering an Armenian.