Hundreds gathered in front of the Agos offices in central Istanbul on Thursday, the 16th anniversary of Hrant Dink’s assassination. MPs, journalists, scholars, human rights defenders, friends of Dink and members of the public mourned the the Armenian newspaper’s former editor-in-chief in a day-long vigil.
Director Emin Alper started his address to the crowd with, “Blood trickles down our friend’s wound still. The trail of blood between his two feet is looking for a path for itself. This small trickling will find a way.”
On 19 January 2007, 17-year-old Turkish nationalist Ogün Samast shot Dink as he left the Agos offices. In the years since, the assassination’s ties with what is called Turkey’s “deep state” have been partially revealed but never fully explored. Samast was eventually sentenced to 23 years in prison for the murder, but the network behind him was never fully brought to light or held to account.
At the time of his death, Dink was facing trial for “insulting Turkishness”, over a newspaper article where he said the Armenian blood had been “poisoned with the Turk”, referring to the space Turkey occupied in the national collective consciousness of Armenia as a country over the 1915 genocide.
“Dink was one of the ringleaders of history who could not settle down,” said Alper. “It was not possible for him to be tolerated, because his was a voice that spoke honestly without provocation, defeating his opponent without hostility, stood firm without belligerence … He was a socialist who fought for all the oppressed and silenced. His voice could not be tolerated.”
“History of humankind began this way, but it does not have to continue the same. We can change this story. We must. If we seek justice, if we want not the gunman but the ones who hired him, who provoked the people, who targeted Dink, who spread hatred and animosity to face punishment, if the blood of thousands of innocents massacred on these lands still lays at our feet, we must change this story.
“A person in solidarity is not alone. … We are not defenceless. We are prepared to hold to account any violence to target one of us or all of us.
“We did not build this system where the strong oppresses the weak, where human dignity is trampled, but we can take it down together. We have friends not enemies against us.
“We will change humankind’s history because we are friends of Hrant. We gave a promise, to live together equally, freely and in human dignity. We stand here to remind ourselves of that promise. To take away the pen from the murderous writers of history. To write together the story of fraternity.”
The crowd held signs in Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish.
Çiğdem Mater sent a message to the vigil as she currently remains in prison for incitement and coup plotting over the 2013 Gezi Park protests that rocked the nation.
“Add to the crowd those of us who wish they could be there with you, those behind bars, those in exile, all the tens of thousands of people,” Mater wrote in her note. “We stand with the pain of all those we lost, and the heavy burden of impunity on our backs as citizens.”