Turkey mourns on 17th anniversary of Hrant Dink's assassination

Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was commemorated on Jan. 19 on the 17th anniversary of his murder. A large crowd attended a ceremony held outside his former office in Istanbul, where the journalist was gunned down.

A banner reading "Murder is 17 years old" is hung on the Sebat Apartment building where the journalist was killed.

Osman Çaklı / Gazete Duvar

Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of Agos Newspaper, was shot dead 17 years ago on Jan. 19, with a gunshot to the head in front of the newspaper building in Istanbul by then 17-year-old Ogün Samast.

On the 17th anniversary of his murder, people and politicians gathered in front of the Sebat Apartment where the journalist was killed. 

The previous year saw the release of Dink’s killer, Ogün Samast, from prison on parole for “good behavior” after serving 16 years and 10 months.

“The killer of Hrant Dink was 17 years old. Today he walks freely among us. Those who (ordered him) to shoot that day are still on duty. A shameful performance was staged under the name of trial,” Hrant’s Friends said before the commemoration.

Carnations were left at the point where Hrant Dink was killed, in front of the Sebat Apartment.

Sociologist Oya Baydar read the commemoration speech this year. 

“In the unforgettable words of dear Rakel (Dink), ‘the darkness that creates a murderer from a baby’ murdered Turkey's conscience. Yes, Hrant was both the bearer of this country's troubles and pain, and the cure and conscience of its oppressed and suffering people,” Baydar said and added that she first met with Dink in 2002.

“During the days when he was exposed to double-sided fire, he said, ‘I will shout 'There is genocide' in the middle of Taksim, and shout ‘There is no genocide’ in Place de la Concorde in Paris,’ while he was facing the racist-nationalist bigotry that turned people against each other. He was a taboo breaker who opposed the lies and obfuscations of official history,” Baydar said.

“He was wrong when he said, 'I live with the anxiety of a pigeon, but I know that pigeons are not killed in this country.' If he had been a hawk, if he had been an aggressor, if he had defended the unity and brotherhood of peoples with weapons and violence, he would not have been a target. They wanted to silence the pigeon because they realized that they could not create a traitor image of Hrant Dink, and because they understood the silent power of pacifism,” she added.

Baydar said they were gathering every year to commemorate Dink and to shout “Despite fascism, you are my brother, Hrant!” 

“(We gather) to keep the memory alive, not to forget, not to be forgotten. But mainly because we accept your desire to live together as equal and free people on this land as your will,” she said.

“You were our conscience, Ahparig. Everything and everyone can be killed, but conscience cannot be killed, kindness cannot be killed, courage cannot be killed. That's why you have been reborn within all of us every January 19th for 17 years,” Baydar also noted.

“Ahparig” means “my brother” in Armenian.

The message of Gezi Trial prisoner Çiğdem Mater was read by one of the Saturday Mothers members, Besna Tosun.

“We will neither give up our search for the darkness behind the Hrant Dink murder nor our demand for justice. We know that the murder committed in front of the Sebat Apartment on January 19, 2007 does not belong to that ‘moment.’ It carries the lawlessness of 100 years behind it and 17 years ahead of it. With our love and embarrassment for Hrant Dink, our belief in justice and our stubbornness, we are here, we are not alone,” Mater said.

Dink was shot dead as he left his Istanbul office in January 2007. After the murder, tens of thousands gathered in central Istanbul to mourn.

Dink had worked for reconciliation between Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks and was repeatedly prosecuted for insulting "Turkishness" over his comments on Armenian identity and the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915. 

An Istanbul court ruled in March 2021 that the murder was carried out in line with the goals of the Gülen network, which the Turkish authorities refer to as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

His killer Ogün Samast was released on Nov. 15 from the Bolu F Type Prison on parole for “good behavior” after serving 16 years and 10 months.

(English version by Alperen Şen)