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17 Year Old Accused Of Murdering Turkish Writer

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 at 09:30 by Sue Stewart

It‚??s a dangerous world. Images of arbitrary, bloody death, fill our airwaves and our newspapers and our conversations. In the middle of it all, it‚??s easy to lose track of where and why it all started, if we ever knew.

Sometimes, though, it‚??s very simple. It‚??s almost always tragic. In the case of Hrant Dink, a Turkish writer and editor of a weekly newspaper (founded by him in 1996), it‚??s shockingly ironic, too.

Hrant Dink was shot down outside his newspaper office last Friday. When footage from a security camera was distributed, a man contacted the police to say that he thought he recognised the killer. It was his 17 year old son, Ogun Samast. When Samast was arrested, he told police: “I read on the internet that he [Dink] said, ‘I am from Turkey but Turkish blood is dirty’ and I decided to kill him … I do not regret this.”

Except that isn‚??t what Hrant Dink said. Of Armenian descent himself, he always insisted that Turks should admit that they had committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Yet he also tried to heal the divisions within the community, going so far as to say that he would travel to France to deny that Turkey had committed genocide on the Armenians when France actually made it a criminal offence to deny it.

That takes a particular kind of courage - and a belief in the freedom of speech that¬†now seems almost heartbreaking. Certainly the Turkish courts didn‚??t share his belief.

There is a law in force in Turkey under which it is a crime to ‚??insult Turkishness‚??. Many writers and intellectuals have been accused (including the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk) but in October 2005 Dink was the first - and I believe so far the only - person to have been convicted.

And the insult? In an article, he said that Armenians should “purify their blood of hatred for the Turks”. At his trial, Hrant Dink insisted that his words were not an insult, they were actually a call for peace - but this was disregarded. So a 17 year old boy‚??s garbling of his words and fatal action upon them isn‚??t simply the tragic outcome of a kind of internet “Chinese whispers”,¬†but the result of a deliberate mangling of meaning by both judiciary and politicos.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a weather eye on Turkey‚??s position as potential entrants to the EU and income from tourism no doubt, said of the murder “a bullet has been fired at Turkish democracy”.

But who passed the law making it a crime to “insult Turkishness” and, in effect, set all of this in motion? Who has failed to repeal it, in spite of saying that they would? Why - Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister and his government.

I bet they don‚??t highlight that little snippet in adverts for package holidays in Bodrum.

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One Comment on “17 Year Old Accused Of Murdering Turkish Writer”

  1. theo Says:

    Having studied the subject of turkey and its history for many years due to a tagic and personal interest i have just this to say about this particular death: Hrant Dink virtually guaranteed his death at the hands of one or other extremist borne of the Turkish state. To be a \”good Turk\” means to take on an ultra nationalist identity supplied in brown paper bags by the states schools and reinforced by the compulsory service in the armed forces where any deviation¬ is severely punished. Years of propoganda leave the average turkish child benumbed and lost to rational independent thought and send them in to adulthood a pliant right wing, conservative robots. Indiviuality is rare and weird, something to be condemned and condemned he was.

    On the other side of this norm are leftwing reflexive anti-nationlists of the old school communist or socialist type that are at daggers drawn with the former and somwhere in the mix are new and growing Muslim traditionalists harking back to the Othoman era. Quite unlike the british model of political involvement there is also a tribal factor that sends everything into a tailspin. This is a very simplified Turkish social model , one that will lead to a very interesting 20 year wait for the EU application Turkey would love to make.

    On the other hand after having spent six months teaching English there ( in Istanbul) I met some incredible people and they are Turkey\’s last hope of salvation from being torn apart by these opposing factions..

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