The Armenian Weekly publishes below an article by Prof. Taner Akcam arguing that Hrant Dink’s murder was implemented in such a way so as to resemble the assassination of Talat Pasha, the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish version of this article appeared in Taraf newspaper on Jan. 23. Since the appearance of the article, new revelations related to the Dink case have reinforced Prof. Akcam’s argument. We thank Fatima Sakarya for the English translation.
The ruling coming out of the Hrant Dink trial has shocked all of us. Shock is a good thing, a beautiful thing actually. It’s a sign of innocence and clarity. It shows that people’s consciences are still clear, and reflects their belief that the most natural thing in the world is to expect, at a minimum, something very ordinary and humane from one another. In fact, there’s no reason for us to be so shocked. If we knew where the people who are hiding Hrant’s murderers stand; if we knew how they view us; and, more importantly, if we were able to make that connection between Hrant Dink’s murder and the genocide of 1915, we wouldn’t have been so shocked. We would have heard them say, “Are they crazy? Have they lost their minds? Would this state ever give up one single brick of its foundation?” Our shock is caused by the mistake of not seeing the strong connection between this murder and the Armenian Genocide. What is shocking is the fact that we were shocked in the first place. It’s a pity that we can’t see what they see, or know what they know.
Hrant Dink was murdered in order to avenge Talat Pasha’s murder. Everything, and I mean everything, was organized in a way to seek revenge for the assassination that occurred in 1921. Upon his release after serving time in prison for his role in the McDonalds bombing of 2004 in Trabzon, Yasin Hayal, the person who planned Hrant’s murder, spoke about Talat Pasha with his father. He asked his father, “Dad, do you know how Talat Pasha was killed?” Yasin Hayal himself knew a thing or two about it, and added, “Did you know that the man who killed Talat Pasha was never punished, and that he was released?”
Why didn’t they kill Hrant Dink in front of his home? Or why didn’t they kidnap him, kill him, and dump his body in some remote location, just like the many crimes designated “perpetrator unknown” in Turkey? If they had wanted to, they could have, but they preferred not to. Instead, they killed him in front of Agos, on the street, in broad daylight, with a bullet to the back of his head. Why? Because through Hrant, they wanted to take Talat Pasha’s revenge from the Armenians. Talat Pasha was murdered by Soghoman Tehlirian, a survivor of the genocide, in Berlin on March 15, 1921. Tehlirian approached Talat Pasha from behind and shot him in the head. On June 3, after a two-day trial, the assassin was found not guilty of murder.
But the murder has another similarity that we’re not aware of. Those who planned Talat Pasha’s assassination had decided that Tehlirian shouldn’t escape, that he should remain at the scene and submit himself to arrest. Likewise, according to evidence from the Hrant Dink investigations, gunman Ogun Samast was to remain at the scene, or submit to arrest elsewhere in Istanbul. Everything was supposed to occur the way it had in 1921. The goal was not only to avenge Talat Pasha’s assasination, but to remind us of the genocide of 1915, of the strangling of the voices of Armenians. They were trying to say, “We will not give a single Armenian the chance to speak freely on this soil after 1915.” Oh, if only we had known what they knew, seen what they saw…
God came to the rescue of those among us who were shocked and could not see the connection between the genocide of 1915 and Hrant Dink’s murder. Rauf Denktas died around the same time. It was as if God was telling us, “Are you blind? Open your eyes, observe. Are your brains so dull? See and understand.” He wanted us to see the line of government-VIPs standing at Rauf Denktas’s funeral, to open our eyes and understand the connection between Hrant and 1915.
Who was Rauf Denktas? He was on the team that paved the road leading to Hrant Dink’s murder. Denktas was the president of the Executive Board of the Talat Pasha Committee, which was responsible for the Talat Pasha meetings and activities in Europe—Lausanne in 2005, Berlin in 2006, and Paris and North Cyprus in 2007. It was formed to organioze actions against Armenians in Europe and Turkey under the slogan, “The Armenian Genocide is an international lie.” It was one of the most important mass organizations of Ergenekon. A number of its founding members are now defendants or detainees of the Ergenekon prosecution. During the investigations, defendants were questioned over the Talat Pasha Committee and its activities. Ferit Ilsever, a defendant and member of the Talat Pasha Committee, complained that 17 of the 49 questions directed at him were about the committee. He believed, rather innocently, that the investigation being conducted over “the veil of the Ergenekon terror organization” was actually against the struggle they were waging “against the ‘Armenian Genocide’ lie.”
While Hrant Dink’s real murderers remained free in Istanbul, all these state VIPs were getting in line to attend Rauf Denktas’s funeral. They were sending us, the shocked ones, the following message: “We built up this state on 1915. To shed light on the Hrant Dink murder means to question the establishment of this state, to pull bricks out of its foundation. Why would you expect us to reveal the truth of Hrant Dink’s murder? Don’t you get it? We are all Rauf Denktas, and we will always be on Talat Pasha’s side.”
Ninety years of denial policies have blinded our eyes, dulled our brains, and atrophied our brains. We can’t see the link between the genocide of 1915 and Hrant’s murder the way they can and do. They made us forget 1915, but they never forgot it. They’ve dulled our memory of 1915, but they themselves never forgot it. We’ve been so dumbed down that some of us get spooked by the very word “genocide,” especially when someone says, “The genocide ought to be recognized.” Some of us still don’t want to link Hrant’s death with confronting our history, the history of 1915. In fact, Hrant is what we were forced to forget, the thing that was hidden from us.
Remember the fairy tales where the hero is given a key to the 40th room that is never to be opened? Think of a room in an old house where the trunk that holds our deepest secrets is hidden away. Hrant is the key. To unlock the secrets of his murder is to open all the secrets behind the formation of our republic. But this government doesn’t have the guts or the will to do this because they are “partners of the secret.”
Our Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan], our President [Abdullah Gul], [Deputy Prime Minister] Bulent Arinc, and other members of the administration have stated that they are unhappy with the ruling and that the public conscience has been wounded. There’s no better way to mock someone than this. As an old politician once said, “Did someone tie your hands, that you weren’t able to capture the murderers?” Are you telling me that the same people who have access into the “cosmic room” (top-secret room) of the general staff can’t find those who planned Hrant Dink’s murder when even the public has a good idea of who might be behind it? It isn’t just crocodile tears you’re shedding; it’s beyond that! You realize, don’t you, that your behavior is an example of supreme disrespect towards those who have not let go of this prosecution for five years.
Once his sentencing was official, Hrant intended to take his entire family and walk the deportation route from his birthplace Malatya to Der Zor; he wanted to abandon Turkey. He used to say, “They don’t want me here, just like they didn’t want my ancestors. And if that’s the case then there’s no point in my staying here. I’m going to follow their path out.” Hrant wasn’t ignorant about 1915, the way we are. He experienced the connection between the 1915 genocide and what was being done to him, every single day; he felt it in his bones. Before he died he told me that he wanted to turn the courtroom, where he was being prosecuted for the use of the word genocide, into a scene out of history. He said, “Yes, I’m going to come out and say that 1915 was a genocide and I’m going to turn the courtroom into a tribunal of history.” They didn’t give him the chance.
We need to open our eyes and shed light onto our dulled minds. Hrant Dink was murdered to avenge Talat Pasha. Hrant is “1.5 million + 1.” Without seeing that and knowing that, we will never understand this murder nor reveal the truth about it. During the days leading up to 2015, we will never learn the truth about this murder without saying, “Yes, 1915 was a genocide and it must be recognized,” and “Hrant was murdered because he reminded you of all the Hrants from 1915.” This is the only way to save our Muslim faith and our Turkishness from the past and from the hands of today’s murderers.
I know how hard it is to live as an Armenian in this country. I understand and feel deep inside of me the emotions behind the words “I can’t live here anymore,” and the wish to abandon the land you were born in. I don’t know if I have the strength to do it but I want to scream out: You are the light that will let us redefine our Turkishness. You are the opportunity to remind the Muslims in Anatolia today of the Muslims of yesterday who, when faced with the annihilation of Armenians, said, “There’s nothing in the Kuran that allows this” and who opposed it and tried as much as they could to save the lives of Armenians. If you go, there is no meaning left to Turkishness or Muslim faith. You give us the opportunity and the possibility to take this country and save it from being the country of murderers and those who protect them.
I’m not saying this to convince you of something. These words are for Hrant Dink’s friends: You are writing history. You are signing on to a principle on this soil. By never letting go of this case for the past five years and saying “This case isn’t over until we say it’s over,” you honor Turkey and you represent its tomorrow. You show us how this republic can be redefined, not as the country of murderers and their protectors, but as the common land of all citizens of diverse religious and ethnic roots.
Let Hrant Dink be our symbol. Let him be our Martin Luther King. If they want to lock arms around Rauf Denktas and Talat Pasha, then let us form a tight circle around Hrant. Let Hrant and “1.5 million +1” be the thing that separates our republic from their republic.