November 20th, Sunday, a beautiful day for pepper gas and billy clubs. The sun was out, the maple trees bright gold, and the skies filled with hundreds of migrating birds. We woke up late and headed out to Kazlıçeşme (Goose Fountain—though not a goose in sight) for the BDP party’s rally in support of the political prisoners taken in the government’s self-styled ‘Anti-KCK’ operation. A line of police with riot shields made a kind of tunnel which we had to pass through to get to the festivities. As we approached, a woman was shouting the names of the prisoners one by one into a microphone still invisible over the barricades. We heard the name ‘Kemal Seven!’ and the blood rushed through me. This time I wasn’t just here as a curious observer.
Once into the rally proper, chanting, protest songs, and other such hijinx ensued—with nary a violent incident in sight. The main speaker was party chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, one of ‘our’ boys from the city nearest Delal’s village. I drifted in and out of his talk, floating back in when he started talking about coming to terms with Turkey’s past. ‘We must face history,’ he said. ‘We must face the Armenian Genocide, the Dersim Massacre, the Madımak Hotel Fire…’ It was like a grocery list of Turkish taboos. I looked above the heads of the crowd to a hill far to the right and saw a line of police with riot shields lowered, chatting away instead of charging toward us waving their billy clubs to stop this villainous insulting of Turkishness. Things have indeed changed. A few years ago, Demirtaş’s words would have been considered high treason and he would not have come away from that speech unharmed. I thought again of Hrant Dink as I have so often during this whole ordeal with my father in law.
I started reading Hrant Dink’s biography, put together by Tuba Candar, a few days before my father-in-law’s arrest. It is a singular work. When we were standing in front of the courthouse in Beşiktaş I was reading about Hrant’s days at the same court. When we started seeing the newspaper articles calling the BDP academy where my father-in-law worked the ‘Academy of Terror’ I was reading about the media’s smear campaign against Hrant. My reading material is obvious, I’m afraid. Hrant’s name pops up in all the entries I have written about our political troubles.
I decided to translate and share a small bit of the book. Tuba Candar does not so much as write the book, as shape what already exists. The writers are the hundreds of friends, relatives and coworkers that loved and admired Hrant. They tell his story from birth to death—giving a kaleidoscopic variety of views that flesh the man out in a way no single author could. When Delal was reading the book last year, she was crying rather copiously, on a daily basis, and I just chalked it up to her being sensitive. I mean, I liked Hrant Dink. He seemed like he had been a man of integrity. He reached out to all sides on the Armenian issue and became the first to speak out on taboos decades old in an effort to reconcile Armenians and Turks. And he spoke out for others as well—for all of Turkey’s downtrodden and martyred without fear or compromise, regardless of race, creed, or political background.
On January 19th, 2007 he was shot in front of the offices of Agos newspaper, the Turkish Republic’s first and only Armenian newspaper which he founded. He had been branded a traitor and a hater of Turks by the media for suggesting Sabiha Gökçen, Atatürk’s adopted daughter, had been an Armenian orphan. It is still unclear whether he was murdered by a lone group of fanatical nationalists or an organization more closely connected with the state. The trial continues today—and the Ministry of Communications is refusing to hand over evidence.
Enough from me. Here is an excerpt from the first part of Hrant’s 600 page biography. The book begins with his family’s reaction to news of his assassination. Readers, let me know if I should continue. It's by no means perfect, but I have tried to be faithful.