A black memorial stone set in the pavement just outside of the old offices of the Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper Agos in Istanbul reminds passers-by that, on January 19, 2007, well-known Armenian-Turkish journalist and intellectual Hrant Dink was assassinated there, The Arab Weekly says.
The trauma of his death left a deep scar in the collective memory of Turkey. Twelve years later, justice remains elusive. The recently opened “23.5 Hrant Dink Site of Memory,” named for an article written by Dink in 1996 that alludes to his life-long struggle to conciliate Turkey and Armenia, aims to continue his legacy and, by keeping his memory alive, to prevent hatred and bigotry.
“In Turkey, we lack a culture of remembrance,” said Sena Basoz, an artist and programme coordinator at the site, the first of its kind in the country. “One trauma immediately follows the next. Unfortunately, there is no culture of confronting the past and the things that have happened. On the contrary, past events are being swept under the rug but it simply doesn’t work that way.”
It is for that reason that the opening of the Hrant Dink Memorial Site is a reason for hope. “We want to create awareness and inspire visitors to open similar sites at other places,” programme coordinator Nayat Karakose said.
Similar initiatives in other parts of the country have not come to fruition, such as at the infamous prison in the predominantly Kurdish metropolis of Diyarbakir, turned into a military martial law facility for political prisoners following the violent coup on September 11, 1980.
In Istanbul, sites of torture, displacement and political struggle have been demolished, refurbished or turned into luxury hotels and shopping centres. “There are many places that need to be remembered for what happened there,” Basoz said. “Remembering is an activity. It’s not passive. The way we imagine our future hinges on how we remember the past. That’s why it is crucial.”
Dink, the founder of Turkey’s Armenian bi-weekly Agos newspaper, was killed in Istanbul in front of his office in an attack that made international headlines.
The slain journalist was outspoken on the Armenian Genocide and prosecuted three times for violating Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to insult Turkishness, the Turkish nation or Turkish institutions.
Dink’s murder quickly came to symbolise the rising wave of nationalism in Turkish society, a war against freedom of expression and the complacency of Turkey’s intellectuals.