Taner Akçam

In a piece Sevan Nişanyan, Turkish-Armenian linguist, travel writer and activist, wrote in his Facebook page about Hrant Dink, the slain Turkish-Armenian journalist and intellectual, he stated that: “Hrant’s murder is a very open and illuminated act. Those who say it is an unresolved murder are wrong.” 

Sevan made a simple list of all the developments that led to the murder. Everything about the murder started with a communique by the General Staff, he believes. “We will hold them accountable,” it was said, and that pushed the button. Hrant Dink was threatened in the office of the governor. Nationalists — members of gray-wolf (youth organization of the Nationalist Action Party) — were sent to demonstrate in front of Agos, the Armenian-Turkish bilingual newspaper based in Istanbul. 

Led by Veli Küçük, a retired Turkish general, and Doğu Perinçek, a Turkish politician, the so-called “Talat Pasha committee” — formed in 2005 — launched a major campaign. Ertuğrul Özkök, editor in chief of the largest selling daily at that time, Hürriyet, led the press leg of the campaign. Then came the murder.

Sevan is right. It is not so important that we do not have any documentation of the links between them. Maybe there is no documentation that exists for these intermediate links. A couple of phone calls were more than enough. There was no need to send an official order note to Ertuğrul Özkök, and there was no need to tell the Talat Pasha Committee, “Come on, it is time to take action.” These names in question already had adequate knowledge, ability and intelligence to take it upon themselves to do it.

The Hrant Dink murder was the most organized murder of the state of the Republic of Turkey. It was committed extremely openly and publicly. Its execution was done overtly as well as its “cover up,” which was to come later and would take some time. As a matter of fact, the cover up is happening in front of everybody’s eyes. In other words, there is nothing nobody does not know. 

Hrant Dink was killed because he was an Armenian. The aim of the murder was to take revenge for Talat Pasha’s death. Hrant’s murder is considered as “1.5 million plus 1,” referring to the number of Armenians to have been killed during the genocide.  

There are people in this country who do not want to see this; there is a huge group of people who shed tears on the anniversaries of Hrant’s death, but the next day run away from the word “genocide.”

For this reason, I wanted to reiterate certain known facts that I wrote in a piece years ago. The question is very simple: Why did they not kill Hrant Dink in front of his house? Or, why did they not kidnap him, kill him and throw his body somewhere, as they did in other unresolved murders? If they had wanted, they would have done each of these easily. But instead of those actions, they killed him in front of Agos, on the street, in broad daylight, before the eyes of everybody, and moreover, by shooting a bullet in the back of his head. Why? 

The reason is that they wanted to take revenge on the Armenians by avenging the death of Talat Pasha.

Talat Pasha was killed on March 15, 1921 in Berlin by a genocide survivor, Soghomon Tehlirian, on the street, in front of the eyes of everyone. Tehlirian approached Talat Pasha from behind and killed him with a bullet to the head. Tehlirian was caught while trying to run away. In the court sessions held in June of that year, he was acquitted.  

There is another resemblance to the murder: Tehlirian was caught while trying to run away from the scene of crime, but according to the decision of the assassination plotters, he should not have run away. He should have stayed where he was and surrendered on the spot.  

During the Hrant Dink investigations, it is understood from certain reports that it was planned that the killer Ogün Samast should actually not have run away — or at least he should have been caught in Istanbul. Everything should have been the same as in 1921. The aim was both to take revenge for Talat Pasha and also to remind the Armenians that the 1915 genocide was done to silence their voices. They wanted to say, “We do not allow an Armenian to speak freely after 1915.” 

Absolutely everything, was planned in such a way as to avenge the assassination committed in 1921.

We know that one of the instigators, Yasin Hayal, was sentenced to 10 months in prison after an incident in which a McDonalds’ restaurant in the Black Sea city of Trabzon was bombed. When he was out of jail, he spoke about Talat Pasha with his father. He has asked his father, “Father, do you know how Talat Pasha was murdered?” He actually had accumulated quite a bit of knowledge of the incident. He added, “Did you know the guy who killed Talat Pasha was not sentenced, that he was released?” 

It would be useful to highlight the direct connection between the Hrant Dink murder and the Talat Pasha Committee, which we have forgotten today, and the acts it has carried out. 

 The Talat Pasha Committee, under the slogan, “The Armenian genocide is an international lie,” was set up in 2005 with the aim of organizing hostility against Armenians in Europe and in Turkey. They held Talat Pasha rallies in Istanbul and Lausanne in 2005, in Berlin in 2006, and in Paris and North Cyprus in 2007. 

This committee was one of the most important organizations formed by Ergenekon, the alleged clandestine organization that was suspected of plotting against the government in the early 2000s. Some of its founding members were suspects and detainees in the Ergenekon case. Now, they are partners in the government.


Professor Taner Akçam is the head of the history department at Clark University.