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Murder of an Armenian Journalist In Istanbul Causes Unexpected Public Outcry in Turkey

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The cold-blooded murder in Istanbul of Hrant Dink, the editor of the bilingual Armenian/Turkish Agos newspaper, has been condemned by leading officials and prominent individuals throughout the world.

Turkish leaders who reviled and mistreated him and took him to court repeatedly on trumped up charges of "Insulting Turkishness" are now expressing their "sincerest" condolences to his family. These are crocodile tears. Alarmed by the massive outpouring of sympathy for the 52-year-old murdered Armenian editor, these Turkish officials are simply engaged in damage control. Seeing that Turkey stands to lose a great deal from a political assassination that was carried out in broad daylight, with Dink's body lying on the cold pavement for hours shown on worldwide TV screens, and realizing the devastating effect this would have on their country's tarnished reputation, they have decided to unleash a charm offensive, becoming overnight great admirers of Hrant Dink and staunch defenders of freedom of expression and minority rights! Who are they fooling?

These are the same leaders who painted a bull's eye on Dink's back by labeling him an enemy of the Turkish nation because of his writings on the Armenian Genocide, and then refused to provide him with any protection after he informed them that his life was in danger due to the steady stream of ominous death threats he was receiving.

In his last column, published on January 10, Dink foretold the immediate danger to his life: "The threats reaching hundreds kept coming for months through phone calls, e-mails and letters.... The deep force was trying to single me out and make me an open target in the eyes of the people of Turkey.... That great force which had decided once and for all to put me in my place and had made itself felt at every stage of my lawsuit, through processes I would not even know about, was present once again behind the scenes. ... The diary and memory of my computer are filled with angry, threatening lines sent by citizens from this particular sector. Let me note here at this juncture that even though one of these letters was sent from [the neighboring city of] Bursa and that I had found it rather disturbing because of the proximity of the danger it represented and [therefore] turned the threatening letter over to the Shishli prosecutor's office, I have not been able to get a result until this day."

While a 17-year old fanatical young man, hired by "dark forces," is said to have pulled the trigger, many others have a share of responsibility in Dink's murder. It is noteworthy that the Turkish police, after apprehending the assassin and a group of collaborators, discovered that he was armed and directed to carry out this murder by another extremist who was trained in the use of weapons by Chechens in Azerbaijan. It is becoming increasingly clear, and Dink said so himself in his January 10 column, that he was being targeted by "a deep force."

Given the sinister nature of the clandestine ruling circles of Turkey, known as the "Deep State," an international panel of investigators must be constituted in order to uncover the far-reaching tentacles of these conspirators. It is obvious that Turkish leaders are not going to investigate themselves. They are also not too eager to expose the connections to Azerbaijan.

For decades, successive Turkish governments have denied the facts of the Armenian Genocide and vilified those who have dared to speak about it. While the long arm of the Turkish regime has reached everywhere in the world to counter all mention of the Armenian Genocide, it has been even more effective in silencing its domestic opponents. Turkey passed laws that made it illegal to refer to the Armenian Genocide and adamantly refused to change its repressive laws, even when European Union officials were pressing them or pleading with them to do so. Turkey's "Deep State" created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, so no one would dare to utter a word on this subject. This atmosphere of intolerance gave a free rein to extremists and agents of the "Deep State" to eliminate "all enemies of the nation." Therefore, Turkish officials are directly responsible for Dink's murder.

In a vain effort to appear accommodating, the Foreign Ministry of Turkey issued a blanket invitation to leaders of Armenia and the Diaspora to come to Istanbul for the funeral of Dink. The announcement said that the Turkish government would pay all travel and hotel expenses for Armenians accepting this invitation, making it clear that only "moderate" Armenians would be welcome.

There has been, however, one major and an unexpectedly positive development since Dink's tragic death. Tens of thousands of Turks and others have been marching in the major cities of Turkey, shouting: "We are all Hrant Dink; We are all Armenians!" This is an unprecedented act. It indicates that there is such intense indignation, among at least a segment of the Turkish population, at the repressive environment dominating the country for so long that they no longer fear showing their resentment. If this circle of decent and humane Turks would expand in the near future, it would bode well for Turkish-Armenian relations and lead to popular pressure to stop the lies on the Armenian Genocide.

If the Turkish government wants to take concrete and meaningful actions to indicate its goodwill following the tragic death of Hrant Dink, it should immediately repeal Article 301 which effectively bans any reference to the Armenian Genocide, open the border with Armenia, and stop the denials and the funding of denialist propaganda on the Armenian Genocide.
The U.S. government should also do its part by having the Congress pass a resolution on the Armenian Genocide, followed by a presidential statement issued on April 24 reaffirming the genocide. Similarly, the French Senate should adopt the pending law which intends to penalize the denial of the Armenian Genocide in France.

Substantive, not cosmetic changes must take place in Turkey in order to stop such senseless killings. The European Union should finally speak with a forceful voice rather than trying to appease the Turkish leadership which has been heretofore very reluctant to carry out any substantial reforms. Otherwise, Dink would have sacrificed his life in vain. He was a voice for reason and peace in Turkey. He called himself a vulnerable "pigeon." He put his life on the line and it was mercilessly cut short.

Will such killings ever stop in Turkey? Will the Armenian Genocide, 92 years later, continue to claim more innocent victims? It is time to stop paying lip service to reforms and start taking decisive action to end the repressive atmosphere in Turkey. The Turkish people, marching by the thousands in recent days, may have triggered such a salutary movement. Will they be able to overthrow their oppressive yoke and force their leaders to become more humane? Only time will tell!