TORONTO, Canada—“Without Hrant, I would not be here. Without Hrant, a lot of Armenians in Turkey—believe me—would not talk about the [Armenian] Genocide. Without Hrant, a lot people of Turkish origin would have never heard about the genocide. And without Hrant, the German Bundestag would have probably never passed the genocide resolution,” Cem Özdemir, Co-Chair of the Green Party of Germany, said at the 10th anniversary commemorations of Hrant Dink’s assassination in Canada.
Armenian political, cultural, religious, business, philanthropic, and academic organizations of Toronto and Montreal gathered together to commemorate Hrant Dink and remember his immense contributions to human rights on Jan. 21 and 22.
The Zoryan Institute of Canada prepared the contextual, audio-visual presentation celebrating Hrant Dink’s life, featuring the events leading to his murder and the significance of his loss to the cause of human rights worldwide. On this occasion, Özdemir and his colleague, Dr. Henriette Rytz, traveled from Berlin for the event to express their solidarity with the principles advocated by Dink.
Özdemir was one of the champions of Germany’s parliamentary resolution that recognizes the 1915 mass murder of Armenians as genocide and accepted its complicity in the crime, in collaboration with the Ottoman Turks.
Also on this occasion, Hrant Dink’s widow, Mrs. Rakel Dink, sent a special video message of appreciation to the audience and Mr. Özdemir himself.
“I would like to salute all of you with my most sincere thanks, love and yearning. I would like to thank all the organizers, participants and the ones who made the efforts to realize such an event in Unity. During the past ten years, communities and human rights activists worldwide come together to combat discrimination and strengthen their power. My special thanks to Cem Özdemir who is among you today,” Dink said in her message.
Megan Reid, Zoryan Institute’s Outreach Coordinator, opened the Toronto event by welcoming the German delegation headed by Özdemir and revealed the relationship between the Institute and Hrant Dink. “The Zoryan Institute shares the values promoted by Hrant Dink who understood that true peace can be achieved only if Turks and Armenians can speak openly about their past,” she said.
Raffi Bedrosyan, the initiator of the program and Special Advisor to the Zoryan Institute on Turkish Affairs, was the moderator of the event and summarized the meaning of the commemoration. “The objective of today’s event is not only to commemorate Hrant Dink, but to reaffirm our commitment to continue Hrant Dink’s mission for reconciliation among people with different ethnicities, cultures and religions, particularly among Armenians and Turks,” said Bedrosyan.
He further explained how Dink, the founder and editor-in-chief of Agos, aimed to eliminate all stereotypes, hatred, and discrimination against minorities in Turkey. To demonstrate the type of hatred promoted by Turkish officials at the highest level, he shared a part of a speech by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, who complained about people calling him “…even uglier things… an Armenian.”
Özdemir, the keynote speaker and a close friend of Dink’s, gave a heartfelt speech about why he came to this event and why the German Bundestag passed the resolution. “We [the Germans] should also talk about our involvement. We were eye witnesses, our diplomats, missionaries, knew exactly what was happening. They told us precisely and thanks to Mr. Wolfgang Gust, his wife, and the Zoryan Institute, all of this is documented,” said Özdemir.
The Zoryan Institute partnered with Gust to collect, translate, and restore thousands of historical documents from the German Foreign Office Archives that reveal details about Ottoman policy during the Armenian Genocide. Zoryan also assisted in the translation, editing, and publishing of the book The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from German Archives, 1915-1916, in English, Turkish, and German.
Özdemir explained the importance of talking about German guilt and German responsibility. “That is why we talked about the responsibility of Germany, to do everything we can do… and of course the European Union too… That those two countries [Armenia and Turkey] that Hrant loved so much, that one day they have an open border and it is as easy to go from Armenia to Turkey and from Turkey to Armenia,” he said.
“If we have the chance to hear the other side of the story, even if they may be brainwashed, I am sure they will start to ask questions. That is the start for change and rethinking,” Özdemir later stated, adding, “trust the Zoryan Institute… trust what your fathers, mothers, and grandparents told you. Nobody can neglect that and nobody can take that away.”
He closed his speak with a heartfelt message of gratitude to Dink: “I want to use this opportunity to thank Hrant and say how much I miss him. I am sure you all miss him too.”