Istanbul: streets filled for slain editor’s funeral

A glimmer of hope is that the outcry following the slaying of Hrant Dink is coming from Turks as well as Armenians. Perhaps his death will not have been in vain—or will there be an inevitable backlash? From the UK-based Turkish newspaper Londra Toplum Postasi, Jan. 25:

More than 100,000 mourners choked the streets of Istanbul for the funeral Tuesday of an Armenian journalist whose slaying sparked debate about freedom of expression and whether Turks of different ethnic groups can live together.

“We are all Armenians!” chanted mourners in an extraordinary outpouring of affection for editor Hrant Dink, who had made enemies among nationalist Turks by labeling as genocide the mass killings of Armenians toward the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Dink was gunned down in broad daylight Friday outside his bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Agos.

The throngs virtually shut down central Istanbul as they marched five miles from the Agos offices to an Armenian Orthodox church for the funeral. Many participants carried placards that read: “We are all Hrant Dinks.”

Despite a request from his family not to turn the funeral into a protest, many also raised their fists at times shouting: “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!” and “Murderer 301!” — a reference to the law that was used to prosecute Dink and others on charges of “insulting Turkishness.”

Comments on that tumultuous period of Turkish history have landed several of Turkey’s most famous thinkers in court. Among them was novelist Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in literature last year. The prosecutions have alarmed the European Union, which is considering Turkey’s bid to join the bloc — but until Tuesday, there were few rallies in favor of freedom of speech.

The liberal outpouring, if it gains momentum, could have significant implications for democratic movements in the Islamic world, where demonstrations against terrorism and other acts of violence have been muted.

Police were questioning seven suspects in the slaying, including a teenager, Ogun Samast, who authorities said has confessed to the shooting, and Yasin Hayal, a nationalist militant.

Interestingly, the Turkish Weekly informed us Oct. 12 that Dink was an outspoken opponent of the pending asinine French law which would criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide. Dink said if the measure passed, he would visit France and say “there is no Armenian Genocide” as an act of protest. “I will do it for freedom of speech,” he said.

Dink seems to have been that increasingly rare thing in this deeply cynical age—a true man of principle.

See our last post on Turkey and the free speech struggle.