Hrant Dink Commemoration at SOAS

On the evening of Monday 19th January 2015, a group of Turks, Armenians and Kurds gathered together on the SOAS steps to commemorate the tragic death of Hrant Dink. Amongst the flickering candlelight, there were pictures of Hrant reminiscent of his time as Founder and Editor in Chief at Agos. We were reminded how during his short life, he altered the aspect of Turko-Armenian relations for the better. Without Hrant’s influence it is arguable that today there would still be a greater discrepancy between the Anatolian nations, although the situation is far from resolved.

The respective heads of the Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish societies all gave heartrending speeches about how Hrant’s life was not lost in vain, how his death has shaped current generations and how it will continue to affect those in the future. Indeed, two of the speechmakers regailed us with what became one of Hrant’s most famous expressions: ‘We are two sick nations: Armenians and Turks… Who is going to heal us? The remedy for Armenians is Turks; the remedy for Turks is Armenians. Our medicine is dialogue.’ This aphorism has perhaps become more prevalent than ever before. In Armenia itself, there is still a deep mistrust of Turkish peoples in many social spheres. Nonetheless, in order for Armenia to progress as a nation it needs to be on better terms with Turkey so that eventually, Armenians may look forward to a time when they no longer regard Turks as enemies but as allies and brothers.

And certainly, the situation regarding Armenia and Turkey has been a hopeful one over the past year. Erdoğan’s statement of condolence on April 23rd 2014 was a step in the right direction in acknowledging the Armenian Genocide by way of an official pronouncement. Furthermore, without Hrant’s legacy, it would be unthinkable for peoples around the world to gather together in Istanbul to promulgate the centennial commemoration of the genocide on April 24th of this year. There is still some way to go but we are a far cry from the accusations of denigrating Turkishness with which Hrant was plagued during his lifetime.

So between the Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish nations we have the capacity to make great headway in getting the Armenian Genocide recognised in a form that does not isolate us as disparate peoples, but rather brings us in accord with one another. Within the Anatolian diaspora the situation is improving, and at SOAS in particular, we wanted to illustrate how we can and will be at the forefront of change. In true memory of Hrant, seemingly divided peoples can become one.

—  Guest Writer, Grace Cartwright, SOAS Armenian Society

Grace is reading an MA in the Religions of Asia and Africa at SOAS, and is actively involved with the university’s Armenian Society.

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