Fact No. 73.

Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was assassinated on the 19th of January, 2007.

The decades immediately following the Armenian Genocide were ones of accommodating trauma and working to get back on one’s feet in new surroundings for the Armenian Diaspora, and accommodating trauma and working to make do in the atmosphere of the USSR for Armenians in Armenia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union.

But what about the Armenians of Turkey? There were survivors in the country’s interior, and many, while being well aware of their background – perhaps because of being well aware of it – adopted Islam or Turkish or Kurdish identities. But there also remained an Armenian community of Constantinople, later officially re-named Istanbul. Over the course of many years, as the new Turkish republic consolidated itself, the Armenians of Istanbul took on the work of sending missionaries to the villages and towns of Anatolia and Asia Minor, locating Armenians, and bringing them to Istanbul to receive an Armenian education, whether a religious or a secular one. Indeed, a majority of the Armenians of Istanbul today are not descendants of old Constantinople-Armenian (Bolsahay) families, but children and grandchildren of Armenians from elsewhere in Turkey.

The story of Hrant Dink echoes that process. He was born in Malatya, in southern Turkey, in 1954. The family moved to Istanbul in 1960, where Dink received his education at various Armenian institutions. His higher education was in zoology at Istanbul University, where he also got involved in some social and political activism. This was a time of a great clash of ideologies in Turkey, and quite a bit of political violence, including the start of the armed Kurdish movement. Dink got in trouble more than once due to his views and due to his Armenian background. But he continued to live and work in Istanbul, running a chain of bookstores.

The big shift came in 1996, with the establishment of Agos, the first bilingual Armenian periodical in Turkey. Of course there had been Armenian newspapers in Istanbul for a long time, but a newspaper that was in both Turkish and Armenian allowed for the Armenian voice to be heard in larger Turkish society. This newspaper was also the vehicle through which the Armenian Diaspora and newly-independent Armenia got to be acquainted with the Turkish-Armenian community, which had lain largely by the wayside. Hrant Dink was the founding editor of Agos, and remained at that position until he was killed on January 19, 2007.

Dink’s murder was a watershed moment in public life in Turkey. He was shot in broad daylight just outside the Agos offices by a 17-year-old nationalist. The story made international headlines and created a wave of mass indignation throughout the country, based on the disbelief that the killer acted alone. Certainly Dink had been ruffling feathers with his outspokenness and had received death threats, but not only were those threats ignored by the authorities, but the murderer was soon recorded as being commended by police officers – a scandal that fuelled the conspiracy theories. The investigation and trial are ongoing, and they continue to generate controversy, although the assassin himself was finally sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The murder of Hrant Dink sent shockwaves throughout the Armenian community of Istanbul, Armenians in Armenia and the Diaspora, as well as civil society at large in Turkey. Marches and commemorations with participation in the hundreds of thousands – including Armenians, Turks, Kurds, and others – have been held on the anniversary of the killing. Agos continues to be published and to play the role set by its founding editor, while the Hrant Dink Foundation carries his legacy and works towards democratisation and respect for minorities and human rights in Turkey, as well as the development of relations between Turkey and Armenia.

References and Other Resources

1. Hrant Dink Foundation
2. Agos (in Turkish, Armenian, English)
3. “Istanbul Police Officers Arrested in Dink Murder Case”, The Armenian Weekly, January 13, 2015
4. “Anniversary of Dink’s Assassination to Be Marked at EU Parliament”, Asbarez, December 29, 2014
5. “Ex-police chief charged with negligence in Dink murder released pending trial”, Today’s Zaman, December 25, 2014
6. “Key suspect in Hrant Dink murder trial Erhan Tuncel released”, Hürriyet Daily News, March 7, 2014
7. “Murdered journalist Hrant Dink remembered in Istanbul march”, euronews, January 19, 2014
8. Wikipedia: “Hrant Dink

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Image Caption

The funeral of Hrant Dink in 2007, with over a hundred thousand marchers, carrying placards in Armenian, Turkish, and Kurdish that read, “We are all Hrant” and “We are all Armenian”.

Attribution and Source

By Taken by Kerem Özcan (6 photos), stitched by Diliff (Uploaded by authors) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

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