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Hrant Dink Memorial Conference in Cologne (

Hrant Dink Memorial Conference in Cologne


A full seven years have passed since Hrant was murdered; those who plotted his murder, the real guilty ones, are still free, and the trial continues… The first round of trials has concluded; the second has begun, and, in paraphrasing Marx’s famous adage about history repeating itself, the first time as a tragedy, the second, as a farce…

Most of us are utterly shocked and confused: how is it that the real killers can still be in hiding? How can a single trial last so long? But the answer is, in fact, quite simple, and was provided in a “tweet” by Prime Ministerial Advisor Hamdi Kılıç on January 2, 2014: “There is still something called “state tradition” in this country. In order to understand what that is one merely needs to read a little history. Some of the reflexes that our state tradition has developed over the years to protect itself are rather disturbing; mark my words!
Kılıç is right; the murder of Hrant Dink is simply one of these disturbing ‘reflexes’ that the state has developed. If we had simply read a little history, we would not have been as shocked, having understood exactly what was transpiring in trial of Hrant’s attackers.

This must be an occasion for self-criticism for us, because for a long time, most of those who have come out onto the streets in Turkey on Hrant’s behalf didn’t make the connection between his murder and the Genocide of 1915. Moreover, some were even angered at those who did try to posit such a connection. Yet those who murdered Hrant Dink were themselves well aware of this connection; that is why they killed him. And it is for this reason that the real killers are still walking around scot-free.

Hrant aimed to deconstruct some of the founding myths of the Turkish state and was murdered for his efforts; and this is why his real killers have not—will not—be found. The murder itself, and the fact that the murderers are still at large, are, as the aforementioned advisor stated, one of the Turkish state’s ‘traditional’–if disturbing reflexes. I would like to offer two other examples of this phenomenon.

Hrant was murdered in revenge for Talat Pasha

First of all, this was itself the reason for Hrant’s killing. Let’s finally get it into our heads and then proceed accordingly: Hrant Dink was killed in revenge for the assassination of Talat Pasha. Everything about the murder—and I mean everything—was organized in a manner that fit a ‘vengeance operation’ for the 1921 conspiracy to assassinate Talat Pasha in Berlin.

I would like to pose a question: Why do you think Hrant Dink was not murdered right in front of his house? 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 in Turkey? They could have easily done any of these things, if they wanted but instead they came up behind him and shot him in the head right there, on the street in front of his newspaper Agos, in front of everyone, Why? Because that’s how Talat Pasha was also killed. Don’t for a second think it was otherwise: his attackers wanted to take revenge on the Armenians as a whole for the murder of Talat Pasha, and they did so in the form of Hrank Dink.

We know that, when Yasin Hayal, one of Hrant’s assassins, was deemed to have served his sentenced for his role in the McDonald bombing of 2004 in Trabzon and released from prison, he spoke with his father about Talat Pasha. He asked his father, “Do you know how Talat Pasha was killed?” And he actually knew a few things about it too, adding, “did you know that the person who killed Talat Pasha wasn’t punished? He was set free.”

Talat Pasha was assassinated on March 15, 1921, on a Berlin street in broad daylight by Soghomon Tehlirian. The assailant approached Talat and, after confirming his identity, fired his pistol at the former Ottoman Interior Minister’s head. Hrant was killed in the same fashion.

Nor is this the only similarity in the two killings: although Tehlirian attempted to flee the scene of the crime, he was quickly apprehended; however, according to the decision of those who actually planned the attack, he was not to supposed to flee but to remain at the sight and surrender himself to the authorities. From some of documentation connected to the investigations surrounding Hrant Dink’s murder it can also be understood that the plan was for his assailant, Ogün Samast to remain at the site of the murder instead of fleeing. Everything was supposed to be just as in 1921. The aim was both to take revenge for Talat Pasha’s murder and to remind the Armenians that the Genocide of 1915 had been carried out in order to silence them. The plotters were trying to say, “We established this Republic on the foundation of the Armenians’ annihilation, and since 1915 we do not give Armenians the right to speak freely on these lands.”

Muammer Güler and Dr. Reşit

The second historical event that I wish to share with those who either cannot or will not see a connection between the events of 1915 and the murder of Hrant Dink is the story of Dr. Reşit, the Unionist Governor of Diyarbakır during the Armenian Genocide.

I would like to compare this man, who was personally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Armenians, with Muammer Güler, who was governor of Istanbul in 2007 at the time of Hrant’s assassination and is complicit in the creation of a climate conducive to the crime. In fact, perhaps it will also be something of a comparison of Tayyip Erdoğan and Talat Pasha.

Many of you will no doubt find unfair a comparison of Prime Minister Erdoğan with Talat Pasha; after all, it was Erdogan who attempted to resolve the Kurdish problem through peaceful means and who has apologized—albeit, half-heartedly and with the real intention not of showing contrition but of needling the Republican Peoples Party and earning credit with voters -on behalf of the state for the massacres at Dersim. In response you might well counter that “There’s no harm in comparisons” …but I would ask that you first hear me out.

In July, 1915 the German Consul at Mosul reported to his superiors that some two thousand Christians in Mardin and Diyarbakır, the majority of them Armenians, had been taken from their respective cities overnight and, in his words, “slaughtered like sheep.”1 However, the consul, who claimed to have received this information from the district governor of Mardin, demanded that measures be taken to prevent such crimes.
The German Embassy in Istanbul passed this information on to Interior Minister Talat Pasha, who then sent a cable to Governor Reshid, in which he repeated the information he had received, including the phrase “slaughtered like sheep,” and issued the following order: “It is categorically prohibited for disciplinary measures imposed in regard to the Armenians to be implemented against other Christians,” demanding an immediate cessation to such measures “that might endanger the lives of random Christians.”.

Yet, despite this cable, the massacres of Christians in the Diyarbakir Province continued without distinctions being made. In response, Talat would send Dr. Reshid another telegram some ten days later, on July 22, in which he would include the special note reading “Confidential: to be dealt with personally” and again stressed that the government’s policy of annihilation should only be implemented against the Armenians, and must not include other Christians. He mentioned that “complaints are being received” and ordered the provincial governor to cease this type of practice, which “will put us in a difficult situation.”

But again, no change in the situation was discerned in response to the second cable. Dr. Reshid continued to order the massacres without differentiating between Armenians and other Christians. Finally, on August 2, Talat sent a third telegram, complaining that reports of massacres continued to be received and that, “despite our having sent numerous cables, the Christians in the province continue to be killed.” He again repeated that the government viewed such a situation as intolerable. In the message Talat also reminded Reshid that he was an official of the state, and “as a [state] official, he was therefore obligated to carry out the orders he received without exception.” Finally, there was an explicit warning: Dr. Reshid would be held directly responsible “for all activities and incidents by bandits and armed gangs.”

These messages that I have presented to you were actually sent in secret and coded form. Their content was unknown to any save Talat, Dr. Reshid, and the few government functionaries who sent or decoded them. Bearing this in mind, we might ask ourselves: was there any investigation undertaken or other sanctions imposed against Dr. Reshid afterwards who in these telegrams is accused of opposing or ignoring government orders, who is reported to have “slaughtered like sheep” upward of two thousand persons? The answer, of course, is a resounding “No!” But other actions were taken. The Mardin District Official Hilmi who was opposed to the murderous actions of Dr. Reshid, and who informed the German Consul of his crimes would be removed from his position. Even more significant, on account of their “successful” implementation of anti-Armenian policies in Diyarbakır, the security personnel who worked under Dr. Reshid were given medals for their work. A telegram sent on July 28, 1915 orders the “promotion of some of the police and commissars who were instrumental in the arrest of Armenian committee leaders and other members in the Province of Diyarbakır,” and the rewarding of some of them with monetary awards and others, with medals.
Nor does my story end here. Dr. Reshid, who deported and killed thousands of Syriac and Armenian Christians from Diyarbakır and its environs was eventually called to account—but not for the mass murders he had ordered, but for the precious jewelry and other items that he had ordered confiscated during the course of the deportation actions and had promised to “send to the capital.” An official message was sent to him demanding that he deliver the items that had been confiscated. In a cable sent to Governor Reshid on October 6, 1915 that included the special note that “to be handled personally”, Dr. Reshid is informed that the government “has received reports that you have confiscated” the monies, jewels, and other items belonging “to the Armenians who were deported and subjected to attack on the way,” and a demand for information on the amounts of gold and jewelry present and the manner in which records thereof were kept. As we have seen, the only subject that appears to have interested Talat was not the annihilation of these Christians, but the fate of the valuables confiscated from them.

But wait: there’s still more. Dr. Reshid would subsequently be rewarded by an appointment as Governor of Ankara in recognition for his services. He would eventually be removed from this post, however, investigated and subjected to a criminal investigation. Perhaps you can you guess the subject of the investigation? Not the murders he had committed, but the misappropriation of the confiscated Armenian property and possessions. It seems that Dr. Reshid had attempted to purchase a seaside mansion in Istanbul with the Armenian jewelry that he had confiscated, but when Talat caught word of this he had him removed from his position. The journalist Süleyman Nazif summed up this situation succinctly with the statement: “The same [Dr.] Reshid that Talat Pasha had esteemed as a murderer…he removed from office for being a thief.”

Do you now see what Prime Ministerial Advisor Hamdi Kılıç meant when he said that “there is something known as ‘state tradition’ in this country; it still exists. It’s enough to read a little history to understand this.” We read some history and we saw that, while the Armenian Genocide was taking place, the state praised Dr. Reshid and others for murdering Christians, but condemned him for theft.

Now let us return to today. The similarity between those things that happened to Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler, against him there are some strong evidence that he was somehow involved in the murder of Hrant Dink and those that occurred to Dr. Reshid is striking. Like Dr. Reshid, Güler was not called to account for the murder. Güler, too, was rewarded for his loyal service, first as an AKP Parliamentarian and later, by being appointed as Interior Minister, although he was subsequently removed from his post for bribery and corruption. Nor was the situation in the case of the police officials involved in Hrant’s case. All would subsequently receive promotions in the wake of the murder, like in Diyarbakir in 1915. Yes, the matter is that simple and clear…

We can now perhaps understand why it is that the real culprits in Hrant Dink’s murder have not—cannot—be found, and why the trial of those arrested seems to never end. Here is the ‘state tradition’ in all its glory…
We must open our eyes and recover the sight that has been taken from us; we must illuminate the dark places in our minds. Hrant Dink was killed—murdered—because he wanted to deconstruct some of Turkey’s foundational myths. Those who killed him—the real culprits—have received promotions and praise for doing so. The sensitivity that they once showed toward the confiscation—or more correctly, toward others’ confiscation–of Armenian property, was never shown toward the lives of Armenians. On the contrary: they oversaw the annihilation of a people. And the situation today is not so different! 1.5 million-plus-one. And Hrant is the “plus one.” If we don’t—or can’t—see this, if we don’t grasp this, then we cannot understand this crime or hope to solve it. In these days, as we approach the year 2015, the hundred year anniversary of the Armenian Deportations and Genocide, we will never solve this crime without first admitting to ourselves that, “Yes, 1915 was a genocide and it must be acknowledged as such,” and that “Hrant was murdered because he reminded us of the million-plus Hrants of 1915.”

Let Hrant Dink be a symbol for us. Let him be our Martin Luther King. Even as others have in the past gathered closely around Talat Pasha and his ilk, and as they even today gather around Erdoğan and his, let us hold fast to Hrant; let Hrant and the “1.5 million-plus-one” be our point of divergence between our Republic and their Republic. This in the only way that we can take back our Islam, our Turkishness and our Kurdishness from the hands of murders—those of yesterday and of today.

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