My Turkishness in Revolt: On Hrant Dink

Hrant Dink, the founder and editor since 1995 of the Turkish–Armenian newspaper Agos, was shot outside his office in Istanbul on January 19. He was a voice of reason in the fierce debate beginning to surface in Turkey about the historical status of the Armenian genocide; in particular, while calling on Turks to admit their culpability, he also pleaded with the Armenian diaspora to moderate its rhetoric.

Below is an article by Dink’s friend Taner Akçam, the first Turkish historian to openly study the genocide of the Armenians and call it by its name. His book, A Shameful Act, was published by Metropolitan last fall. Last month, it was reported that the Turkish government has opened an investigation to determine whether Akçam has insulted the Turkish nation, an act illegal as of June 2005 under penal code article 301. “My Turkishness in Revolt” first appeared as “Türklüğümün İsyanı” in the newspaper Radikal on January 24, 2007.

I am a Turk. Hrant was an Armenian. I write for Agos. He was Agos. Hrant, Agos’s Turkish writers, and Agos itself risked everything for a cause: to cease the hostility between Turks and Armenians; to bring the resentment and hatred to an end.

Hrant and Agos were a single flower blooming on the barren plains of Turkey. That flower was destroyed, torn from the ground. Everyone says: “The bullet fired at Hrant hit Turkey.”  That’s true, but we need to ask ourselves in complete and transparent honesty: Who made the target for that bullet? Who targeted Hrant so the bullet would find its mark? Who held him fast so the shot wasn’t wasted?

Hrant wasn’t killed by a lone 17-year-old. He was murdered by those who made him a target and held him in place.

Nor was he killed by a single bullet. It was the targeting, month by month, that murdered him.

“I’m afraid,” he said on January 5th. “I’m very afraid, Taner. The attacks on me and on Agos are very systematic, They called me to the Governor’s office, where they started making threats. They said, ‘We’ll make you pay for everything you’ve been doing.’ All the attacks began after I was threatened.”

“2007 is going to be a bad year,” he continued. “They’re not going to ease off.”

Hrant wasn’t killed by a 17-year-old. He was murdered by those who portrayed him as an enemy of Turkey, every single day in the press, to that 17-year-old. He was murdered by those who dragged him to the doors of the courthouse under Article 301. He was murdered by those who aimed Article 301 during their open season on intellectuals, and by those who didn’t have the courage to change Article 301. Hrant was murdered by those who called him to the Governor’s office and then threatened him instead of protecting him.

There’s no point in shedding crocodile tears. Let us bow our heads and look at our hands. Let us ponder how we will clean off the blood. You organs of the press who have expressed shock over Hrant’s death, go read your back issues, look at what you wrote about Hrant. You will see the murderer there. You, who used 301 as a weapon to hunt intellectuals, see what you wrote about 301, look at the court decisions. You will see the murderer there.

Hrant was portrayed as “the Armenian who insulted Turkishness.” For this, he was murdered. He was murdered because he said, “Turkey must confront its history.” The hands that pulled the trigger—or caused it to be pulled—in 2007 are the same hands that shot all the Hrants in 1915.

Hrant’s killers are sending us a message. They’re saying “Yes! We were behind 1915 and we’ll do it again!” Hrant’s murderers believe they killed in the name of Turkishness, just like those who killed all the Hrants in 1915.

For them, Turkishness is about committing murder. It means setting someone up as the enemy and then targeting that person for destruction.

Quite the contrary, the murderers are a black stain upon the brow of Turkishness. It is they who have demeaned Turkish identity.

For this reason, we have stood up and we have decided to take Turkishness out of the assassins’ hands and we have shouted out, “We are all Hrant! We are all Armenian!” We are the resounding cry of Turkishness and Turkey. All of us—Turks, Kurds, Alevites, secularists, and Muslims alike—shout out on behalf of everyone who wants to take Turkishness away from these murderers.

We can feel proud to be Turkish only if we can acknowledge the murderer for who he is. That is what we are doing today. By declaring, “We are all Armenians,” we know that we honor Turkishness; by identifying the true murderer, we create a Turkishness worth claiming.

Today we declare to the world that murder has nothing to do with Turkishness or Turkey. We are not going to leave Turkishness in the hands of murderers. Either Turkishness belongs to the murderers, or it belongs to us.

Turks cry out that the person who killed Hrant is a murderer. In the wake of his death, Turkishness affirms that we are all Armenians.

This, I say, is what we also need to do for 1915.

Hrant wanted us to. When he said, “I love Turks and Turkey, and I consider it a privilege to be living amongst Turks,” that’s what he was asking for. We need to acknowledge the murderers of the Hrants of 1915, and we need to draw a line between them and Turkishness.  If we are going to own up to this murder in 2007 then we need to do the same for those of 1915.

If we can affirm that a real Turk is someone who can distance Turkishness from the murder of Hrant Dink, then we ought to be able to do the same thing for the events around 1915. Those who gather in a protective circle around Hrant’s murderer are the same people who protected the murderers of 1915.

That’s what confronting one’s history is about. Today, by saying to Hrant’s murderer, “You don’t represent me as a Turk: you are simply a murderer,” we have begun the process of confronting and acknowledging our history.

I cry out in the name of Turkishness. I cry out as a Turk, a friend who lost Hrant, my beloved Armenian brother. Let’s take back Turkishness from the murderous hands of those who wish to smear us with their dark deeds. Let’s shout in one voice, “We are all Hrant! We are all Armenians!”

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