Ergun Babahan
Nov 01 2018

Hrant Dink and Jamal Khashoggi

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reacted to murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate last month completely differently to the killing of Turkish Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink in 2007.

Dink was not killed in a consulate, but rather openly in the heart of Istanbul as a warning to Armenians. Dink had even predicted it would happen and police also had intelligence ahead of the killing, but no one raised so much as a finger to stop it. One more name was added to the list of many thousands of Armenians killed in this country.

In the eyes of many in Turkey, Dink had committed a grave sin by providing proof of the Armenian genocide through Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s most prominent newspapers. Mentioning the Armenian genocide in which the Ottoman government killed about 1.5 million Armenian citizens during the First World War is taboo in Turkey.

So is bringing up links between the Republican People’s Party (CHP) of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the Committee of Union and Progress, the Ottoman political party that ordered and organised the genocide. Many of the committee’s members took up prominent posts after the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Dink broke these taboos. His lawyers allege he was killed by a network that included members of the civilian and military bureaucracy, intelligence agency and members of the Gülen movement, a shadowy group of followers of U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen that infiltrated the state and was eventually blamed for launching the 2016 failed coup.

As we approach the 12th anniversary of his murder, the ruling party still has not made enough effort to shine a light on the reason for his death. On the contrary, it has aided a cover up.

Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have not taken as much responsibility for investigating the death of their fellow citizen as they have for the murder of Khashoggi.

Dink’s murder was pinned on a hit man and those who were really responsible have never been brought to justice. The case has been left to rot.

This horrible murder left a deep wound in the collective psyche of Turkish society and hundreds of thousands took to the streets, but their rage and demand for justice was unanswered.

It was a copy of the murder of Ottoman journalist Hasan Fehmi Bey, a critic of the Committee of Union and Progress, on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul on April 6, 1909. The murderous mindset of those who made the decision was the same.

Khashoggi, on the other hand, was a Saudi citizen. Strangely enough, he chose Turkey, which violates press freedom and democratic norms, as his base and Erdoğan as his protector while he tried to bring democracy and freedom of the press to his home country. While he was a U.S. resident, Khashoggi had recently purchased a home in Istanbul where he planned to live with his Turkish fiancé.

Khashoggi’s murder, apparently recorded by Turkish intelligence services, was a challenge to Erdoğan, who is likely to have felt denigrated by the murder. The fact that the Saudis were brazen enough to carry out such an act showed that they took neither Turkey nor Erdoğan seriously. But Khashoggi was a writer for the Washington Post who validated the liberal American media’s distaste for the Saudis.

Erdoğan expertly used leaks to squeeze Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. President Donald Trump into a corner and forced the Saudi prince to call the Turkish president and the head of the CIA to visit in person.

After that day, the leaks stopped. Khashoggi’s murder disappeared from the agenda of Turkish state media. The Turkish public, led by the media, also stopped following the affair, along with the Turkish opposition.

Erdoğan either got what he wanted from the Saudis, or as some have claimed received a serious threat. Whatever the reason, he immediately relinquished all responsibility for solving the murder.

It was foolish to expect an Islamist who has put hundreds of journalists in prison, closed down dozens of newspapers and television channels that opposed him to stick to principles. But the fact that Erdoğan has defended the Saudi reputation by going silent and allowing a protector of journalism and the free press to be killed is a crime against history.

Erdoğan is an authoritarian leader who has and extinguished freedom of expression and democracy. This is a fact that should be brought to the fore and thrust in his face at every opportunity.