Tribute to Hrant Dink
TRIBUTE TO HRANT DINK
HON. FRANK PALLONE, JR.
of new jersey
in the house of representatives
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the memory of Hrant
Dink, a beloved journalist, activist, and a man of conscience. Two
years ago, on January 19, 2007, Mr. Dink was assassinated in front of
his office building in Istanbul.
As a Turkish Armenian, he worked tirelessly to unite the Armenians
and the Turks. Serving as the editor-in-chief of Agos, Turkey's only
bilingual Armenian and Turkish newspaper, Hrant Dink was a leader. When
it came to the Armenian Genocide, he rejected the Turkish government's
subversion of history. Instead of accepting state denial of the
Armenian Genocide, he advocated for truth and battled Turkey's
strangling grip on freedom of speech.
For these convictions, Hrant Dink was tried for insulting Turkishness
under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. For these convictions,
Hrant Dink was brutally assassinated.
Two years later, Turkey's citizens who speak honestly about the
Armenian Genocide still face potential prosecution and imprisonment for
publically denigrating the Turkish Nation or Turkish Republic. This
ultra-nationalism hijacks history at the expense of freedom of speech,
stifling discussions by the Turkish people.
Two years later, the investigation into Hrant Dink's murder is in
disarray, corruption in the judicial and police system runs deep, and
Turkey's moral authority is weakened. The many involved in Hrant Dink's
killing, from members of the gendarmerie to extremist nationalists,
have been charged or imprisoned for their actions, but it has become
apparent that Istanbul and Trabzon's security departments had
information that Hrant Dink would be killed, but failed in their duty
to protect him. Turkey should act swiftly to bring justice to the
memory of Hrant Dink.
This hate and denial produces an environment of fear. This
environment produces extreme nationalist organizations that manipulate
young men to kill in the name of the Turkish Republic. The law
enforcement community was tainted by officers who portrayed Hrant
Dink's assassin as a proud Turkish citizen, placing a Turkish flag in
his hand and flashing photographs to celebrate a murder.
Now, more than ever, Turkey must shun this behavior and embrace the
lessons that Hrant Dink taught--the need for reconciliation between the
different realities in Turkey.
There are those on the extreme fringe who stone Armenian Churches and
in the midst of soccer matches chant in jubilation the name of Hrant
Dink's killer. These individuals may be extreme, but the Turkish
government fosters their existence through laws like Article 301.
But there also exists the people in Turkey who see past government
intimidation and chant ``We are all Armenian, we are all Hrants, as
they gather in thousands upon thousands to celebrate his life.
On the wake of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Convention
on Genocide, thousands of Turkish intellectuals signed on to a letter
apologizing to the Armenian people for the genocide. This promising
show of empathy amongst the Turkish people is welcome.
The apology states, ``My conscience does not accept the insensitivity
showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman
Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my
share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers
and sisters. I apologize to them.
Unfortunately, the Turkish state remains set on its same path to
impede reconciliation. A probe launched by a Turkish state prosecutor
will investigate the apology campaign to decide if it violated Article
301. As the judicial system continues to assault freedom of speech,
elected officials also hamper progress. Recently, Parliamentarian Canan
Aritman employed racism against Armenians. Angered by President
Abdullah Gul's response to the campaign, she suggested that ``Abdullah
Gul should be the president of the whole Turkish nation, not of his
ethnic origin. She then encouraged fellow parliamentarians to
``investigate the ethnic origin of the president's mother.
On behalf of Hrant Dink's memory, I call on Turkey to come to terms
with its own history and shed the shackles of suppression. In honor of
Hrant Dink these actions would be an apt call to conscience.