24 September 2006

1037) Hrant Dink: “I just used the word ‘genocide’, which is reality”

In a meeting with Armenian press Tuesday, controversial Turkish journalist Hrant Dink said he will challenge his conviction for “insulting Turkish identity” in the European Court of Human Rights.

Dink has been sentenced by courts in Urfa and Istanbul because he has written that the 1915-18 Turkey-Armenia conflict was “genocide”. His prison sentence is conditional (meaning that he doesn’t serve prison time), stipulating that if Dink uses the word “genocide” in future articles, his sentence will be doubled and will not be conditional. . .

Dink, who is Armenian (born in Malatia, Turkey) is editor of the Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos, based in Istanbul. He was in Yerevan this week on the invitation of the Third Armenia Diaspora Conference.

“I have not disrespected any identity. I am not a racist. I just use the word ‘genocide’, which is a reality. So I want my identity as of an Armenian not to be disrespected either. If the European Court does not restore my rights either, I will leave Turkey. If they don’t accept me and consider me an enemy, I can’t live in that country,” says Dink.

The editor enflamed passions and became a cause-celebre for Genocide recognition, a year ago, when he wrote that unlike Armenians around the world who speak of the Genocide of 1915, Armenians of Turkey do not even dare to somehow commemorate their dead ancestors on April 24th.

(Dink is one of dozens who have been prosecuted by Turkish authorities for statements that the government finds “insulting” to Turkey. Yesterday [September 21] a court exonerated novelist Elif Shafak on such charges.)

“The majority in Turkey doesn’t know the truth. How can people know, when talking about it has been prohibited for 90 years?” says Dink. “The Armenian side should first teach Turks the real history and then lead a policy of Genocide recognition. There are Turks who recognize the crime committed by their compatriots. Others question if it has taken place or not.”

Dink, 52, said interest toward the Genocide has grown in Turkey in recent years, leading authorities to react severely, as in his case. He says Turkish school books portray Armenians as perpetrators of massacres against the Turks.

According to the editor, the part of the population inhabiting the territory of historical Armenia today is more informed about the Genocide. Their greater part is Armenians converted to Turks who remember the crime against their ancestors. The Kurdish insurgence in Turkey also facilitates raising the Genocide issue.

“The Armenian question came forward along with the Kurdish question. The Kurdish intelligentsia was the first to write about it, mentioning the participation of Kurds in the Armenian massacres,” says Dink.

According to the journalist, there are two ways the government of Turkey can recognize the Armenian Genocide: One is to pressure the international community (especially as Turkey is considered for European Union membership); the second is by the Turkish people themselves.

Dink also said part of the society has begun reflecting on the Genocide, despite obstacles by the regime.

“The growth of the democratization movement is accompanied by that of the nationalistic,” he said. “There are large masses of people in Turkey unwilling to see Turkey in the European Union. These people do the utmost to have Turkey appear before the international community as a ‘dark’ country. These forces are strong enough and sometimes do influence people.”

Dink says Turkish nationalism is conditioned by next year’s national elections.

Dink expressed his personal position on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the following way: “The best way is to have Turkey become a democratic country. The demand will come from the bottom and the society will recognize the Genocide without an external pressure.”

By Gayane Mkrtchyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

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