CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (A.W.)—Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, was the main speaker at a memorial for slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink on Nov. 13 at Harvard’s Yenching Auditorium. Hrant Dink’s widow, Rakel Dink, was an honored guest speaker.
Homi Bhabha, the director of the Mahindra Humanities Center—which sponsored the event—began the event by speaking about the memorial’s planning and organization, and his pleasure in having so many esteemed guests present, who had gathered to “recall the undying spirit of idealism and public service embodied in the memory of Hrant Dink.”
Prof. Cemal Kafadar and Harry Parsekian, president of Friends of Hrant Dink, then spoke about Hrant Dink and what he stood for.
Kafadar described Dink as “a very special human being to all those who knew him and even simply met him. … To engage with the memory of Hrant Dink is not to bemoan, however, but to draw inspiration from and build upon his legacy,” he said.
Parsekian spoke about how honored he was to have Rakel Dink join them, and how she is “a person who still valiantly continues working for women’s and human rights issues.”
“Hrant spoke the universal languages of justice, compassion, understanding, love and humanism and touched the very souls of people because of his sincerity,” said Parsekian, adding, “Hrant was brave, he wrote about the Armenian Genocide in his newspaper Agos…The subjects he wrote about infuriated certain state officials, the state knew that Hrant was targeted, but did nothing to protect him. He lived under the constant threat of death. To this day the real killers are still free and protected, justice has not been served.”
Rakel Dink, with Ayse Kadioglu translating, then spoke about peace and how to help bring an end to war. “Whoever we are, and whatever our beliefs are, we can put our signature underneath the same crystal-clear demand,” she said. “As those of us who want peace stay away from each other, peace becomes more unreachable. Let millions come together this time, let us make up for peace, let us have one million signatures for peace. Let us each give our signature for peace.”
Dink, who was representing the Hrant Dink Foundation in Istanbul, also spoke about not losing hope for peace, saying, “Those who dream of peace should not give up. The ability to dream is our greatest power. As we dream, peace will blossom, it will have room to breathe. Let the weapons pause first, let death be silent, and let life speak.”
“When peace is mentioned, I leap up without forethought, I say ‘I am in’ without a precondition. As I leap up, those around me stand up in front of me and say ‘Why don’t you mind your own business. Don’t they somehow get rid of those who refer to peace like this? What’s it to you?’ One pauses for a moment, that very moment of hesitation is the largest weapon of the warmongers, and biggest obstacle in garnering peace,” said Dink.
Prof. Khalidi, author of The Iron Cage and Palestinian Identity, presented his talk titled “Unhealed Wounds of World War I: Armenia, Kurdistan, and Palestine.” He described how the memorial lecture was for “keeping alive the memory of its namesake, Hrant Dink, who is a renowned journalist, intellectual, humanist, and militant for peace, justice, and reconciliation.” He then spoke about World War I and the parallels he saw between the Armenian, Kurdish, and Palestinian conflicts during and after the war. The three subjects share “the common World War I experience of the cruel disappointment of their hopes for independent developments as peoples,” he said.
Khalidi spoke about the legacy of World War I, and its effects that have echoed throughout the decades. “The imposed borders and the artificial nature of the states created within them have produced periodic conflicts between states and civil wars within states. These include the bloody decades of long Kurdish insurgencies in Iraq and Turkey, they include the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990, they include the 1990-91 war over Kuwait, and they include the festering one hundred year long struggle over Palestine.”
Khalidi, who comes from a Palestinian-Lebanese background, is the director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, and is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.
“In spite of various solemn commitments offered by the victors of World War I, notably Great Britain, in the end none of these commitments were honored,” added Khalidi.
The event came to a close with a lively question and answer period.