“Buradayız ahparig” – We are here brother

Millions around the world shared these words, via speech, via picture or even via Facebook profile, in condolence for the 7th anniversary of the assassination of Turkish – Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

Assassinated on his way to work, Dink’s death stood to represent the continual struggle of Armenians, and of free speech against the Turkish government and nationalistic right. On numerous occasions he was threatened with jail time due to the infamous Article 301 (the law against disgracing Turkishness). But Dink’s determination and inspirational attitude stood out when he fought back: “But I will not be silent…As long as I live here, I will go on telling the truth, just as I always have.”

Ogün Samast, the murderer of Dink, was sentenced to 22 years and 10 months of prison after a two year-trial, yet many of the state officials who were involved in the murder were eerily exempted. Many accused the state of protecting those responsible, yet the truth about the events remains unknown. Is this to be expected from the country with one of the highest incarceration rates of journalists?

My personal favourite saying of Hrant Dink depicts exactly how the fundamental problem can only be addressed with active contact and cooperation and not via separation or hatred. “We’re two sick nations Turks and Armenians in our relations… Who is going to heal us? The remedy for Armenians is Turks. The remedy for Turks is Armenians. Our medicine is dialogue”. For me, this quote illustrates why he is such an inspiration, rousing me to cultural dialogue, speaking to Turks in Turkish so that, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to him in his language it goes to his heart”.

This year, from Taksim square, thousands of Turks and Armenians marched towards Agos’ Headquarters, showing commiserations and unity against the crime. Chants of “We are all Armenians,” filled the air amongst popular chants from the recent Gezi Park protests; “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance.” Condolences for those who were killed last summer were shown, and served to show unity against the wrong doings of the government. Vociferous demands were made for the trial of not only the man who pulled the trigger, but those who steered him to pull it.

How are we to see Hrant Dink? Figuratively the 1,500,001st victim of the Armenian genocide, his death represents the still ever-present tension between nationalistic Turkey and vocal Armenians. We must not let this create further hate between us inhabitants of Anatolia.

Scarily, there are still very strong ultra-nationalistic elements within Turkey. On the day of the march, many traffic police officers were seen wearing white caps in condolence with Samast who was wearing a white cap on the date of the murder, a badge of pride among the fascists. We must not stoop down to this level, or reciprocate this form of nationalism.

Instead of being seen as a splitting of a community, Dink’s legacy must be utilised as a further stepping stone for compassion and intercultural dialogue. He stood as the reminder that nationalistic hate still exists out there but that there are many people are out there still fighting it. Together, only understanding each other and not preaching hatred of our neighbours in Anatolia, can we truly say “Buradayız ahparig”.

— Raphael Gregorian

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