The ruling coming out of the HHrant 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 a mental state that believes it is the most natural thing in the world to expect at a minimum something very ordinary and humane from one another.
In truth, there really isn’t any reason for us to be so shocked. If we knew where the people who are hiding Hrant Dink’s murderers stand, knew where and how they view us and, even more importantly, if we could have made that connection between his murder and the genocide of 1915, we wouldn’t have been so shocked. We would have seen them looking at us with knowing smiles and heard them say, “What are they crazy? Have they lost their minds? Would this state ever give up one single brick in its foundation?”
Our shock is a reflection of our own mistake of not seeing how strong a connection there is between this murder and the Armenian genocide. Actually, we should be shocked over the very fact of our own shock. It’s a pity really. 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. After serving time in prison for his role in the McDonald’s bombing of 2004 we know that upon release Yasin Hayal spoke about Talat Pasha with his father. He asked his father “Dad, do you know how Talat Pasha was killed?” And he actually knew a few things about it too, adding, “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 throw his remains in some remote location, the way all the other “unknown perpetrator” crimes have been committed? They could have, had they wanted to. Instead, they killed him in front of the AGOS newspaper headquarters, on the street, in broad daylight–by shooting him in 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 a bullet into his head. Tehlirian was captured while attempting to escape, then acquitted at the conclusion of a trial on June 2-3.
But the murder has another similarity unknown to many of us: Tehlirian was reported caught while attempting to escape but the fact is that the ones who planned the assassination had decided that he should actually remain at the scene and allow himself to be arrested. According to some of the records that were produced during the Hrant Dink investigations, it is apparent that Ogun Samast was meant to at least be captured in Istanbul. Everything was supposed to occur the way it had in 1921. The goal was not only to take revenge for Talat Pasha but to remind everyone that they were going to drown out the Armenian voice and the genocide of 1915. They were trying to say “We will not give an Armenian the chance to speak freely on this soil, after 1915.” Oh, if only we had known what they knew, seen what they saw. ...For those of us shocked souls who don’t see the tie between the genocide of 1915 and Hrant Dink’s death, who didn’t want to see it, God came to the rescue. He ‘arranged’ Rauf Denktaþ’s death to coincide with this. It was as if the Lord was saying to 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 Denktaþ funeral, to open our blinded eyes and our atrophied brains and to understand the connection between Hrant and 1915.
Who was Rauf Denktaþ? Denktaþ was on the team that laid out all the stones for the road leading to Hrant Dink’s murder. Denktaþ was the president of the Executive Board for the Talat Pasha Committee which was responsible for the Talat Pasha meetings and activities in Europe—Lausanne 2005, Berlin 2006 and Paris and North Cyprus in 2007. The committee was formed for the purpose of organizing enmity 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 portion of its founding members are now defendants or detainees of the Ergenekon prosecution. During the investigations, defendants were questioned about 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 Talat Pasha Committee. In fact he believed, rather innocently, that the investigation that was 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 Denktaþ’ funeral. They were sending us, the shocked ones, a message: “We formed this state on top of 1915. To shed light on the Hrant Dink murder means to question the establishment of this state, to pull bricks out of its foundation. Under what kind of logic would you expect us to reveal the truth of Hrant Dink’s murder? Don’t you get it? We’re of ‘Rauf Denktaþ’ and we will always be by Talat Pasha’s side.”
Ninety years of denial policies have blinded our eyes, dulled our brains and made them atrophy. We can’t see or make the connection between the genocide of 1915 and Hrant’s murder the way they can and do. They made us forget 1915 but they never ever forgot it. They have got us so dumbed down that there are those among us who get very disturbed by the use of the word “genocide” and act like they’ve seen a boogie man when someone says “the genocide ought to be recognized.”
There are still those among us who don’t want to link Hrant’s death with confronting history and who don’t want Hrant and 1915 placed side by side when, in fact, Hrant is that thing that we were made to forget, the thing that was hidden from us. Hrant is a key. He’s the key that appears in old fairy tales where the heroes of the tale are given a key that goes to the 40th room that isn’t ever supposed to be opened. You know, like the key to the room that houses the trunk that holds all of our secrets in our old homes. If the Hrant Dink murder is unraveled, all of the secrets behind the formation of our Republic will unravel with it. This government doesn’t have the guts or the will to do this because they are the secret’s “partners.”
Our Prime Minister, our President, Bülent Arýnç and other select members of the administration have stated that they are unhappy with the ruling and that the consciences of people have been wounded. There’s no better way to mock someone than this. They need to be reminded of the words of an old politician (his name isn’t important) who asked, “Did someone tie your hands that you weren’t able to capture the murderers?” You’re telling me that the same people who have entré into the top secret room of the military general staff can’t find the ones who planned Hrant Dink’s murder, when even the public has a good idea of who might be behind it? These are not 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 seriously wanted to take his entire family and walk the whole route from his birthplace in Malatya to Der Zor [Syria], just as his forebears had; 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 had 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 had said, “Yes, I’m going to come out and say that 1915 was a genocide and I’m going to turn that courtroom into a pulpit 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 in order 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 these 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 Turkey. 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 Quran that allows this” and who opposed it and tried as much as they could to save the lives of Armenians. If you leave, 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 Denktaþ 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.
Taner Akçam is the first Turkish scholar to publicly express his conviction that the 1915 Armenian genocide occurred under the Ottoman Empire (of which Turkey is a successor state). Professor Akçam holds the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Endowed Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University (Worcester, Mass.). He is the author of “The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity” (Princeton University Press, April 2012).