Monday, January 20, 2014

Hrant Dink: Seven Years Marching for Justice (Buradayız Ahparig We are here!)

Hrant Dink (1954-2007): "As long as I live here, I will go on telling the truth, just as I always have." ."

For seven years now, on January 19, people have taken to the streets to remember Hrant Dink, who was shot dead in front of the offices of  Agos, the Turkish-Armenian newspaper, where he served as its chief editor. 

The newspaper, Birgun, opted to remember Dink by publishing the picture of when he was killed on that January 2007 day. All we could see from the covered body was the worn-out shoes with a hole in them-this became a sign of his modesty.

The annual march starts in Taksim and slowly makes it way to his offices in Osmanbey, a neighborhood in the Şişli district. With tensions high since the Gezi Park protests, three water cannons were placed at the starting point of the procession. Happily, all ended peacefully (just the night before police had used excessive force to silence a protest against internet censorship with teargas and rubber bullets). 

The marchers represent all walks of life: old and young; religious and secular; rich and poor; Turkish people of all religions and ethnicities:  Turks, Kurds, Sunnis and Alevis, Armenians, Greeks, Jews; also present were worker unions, and members of Turkey's LGBT community. Together everyone chanted "We are all Hrant, We are all Armenian."

A different chant heard over and over again was "Killer-State, we will hold you accountable!" For seven years, despite credible suspicion that some within the Turkish state apparatus (the Deep State) masterminded the assassination, the trial has been shrouded in cover-ups and only people on the lower-end of the ladder have been prosecuted. Even though the young gunman, and another shady character, have been convicted, the trial continues on...

Other chants included those remembering the seven young men who were killed in the Gezi Park protests, and get-well wishes to Berkin Elvan, the 15-year old, who during the summer protests, while out buying bread was hit in the head by a teargas canister-he is still in a coma. Lastly, a call to bring justice to Sevag Balıkçı was heard over the loudspeakers. He was an ethnic Armenian who was killed while serving in the Turkish army; despite the courts finding that this was a case of an accidental shooting, some of his army mates have a different story. He was killed three years ago in his barracks on April 24-the official day of commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

Along the way, we passed a main road named Ergenekon, which leads up to the neighborhood Kurtuluş, home to many Armenians, and where Hrant Dink once lived. In addition to the name of the street's Turkish mythical nationalist significance, it also is the name of the ultra-nationalist group whose members were sentenced to prison due to attempts to stage a coup d'etat; many believe that some members of this group could have ties to the Dink assassination. Ever since he was killed, there have been calls to change the name of the street to "Hrant Dink" avenue. 

This was the last photograph as the marchers paused to let the merging group from "Hrant Dink" avenue join in, before making the way to the Agos headquarters. Among the people leading the procession is Rakel Dink, Hrant's wife, the one who has never stopped speaking up on his behalf, working endlessly to keep his memory alive.

Arriving to Agos, speeches took place and sad music was played. Among the speakers was Gulten Kaya, wife of the famous Turkish singer who died in exile, Ahmet Kaya. Also, one of the speakers stressed the importance that next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide; in other words, it is impossible to separate the killing of Hrant from the massacre of Armenians in 1915. During the ceremony, some people cried, while others chanted defiantly. Slowly the tens-of-thousands of people holding signs in Turkish, Armenian, and Kurdish departed their ways. For seven years they have demanded justice, and until it is served they will be back. 

Buradayız Ahparig We are here!

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