Hrant Dink memorial a rare effort in Turkey confronting its past - AW

A recently opened memorial site paying homage to Armenian-Turkish journalist and intellectual Hrant Dink was assassinated in 2007, is a rare effort in the country confronting its past and fighting hatred and bigotry, wrote Arab Weekly columnist Constanze Letsch on Saturday

Dink, the founder of Turkey’s Armenian bi-weekly Agos newspaper, was killed in Istanbul in front of his office on  Jan. 19, 2007, 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.

The “23.5 Hrant Dink Site of Memory,” is named after an article written by Dink in 1996 that alludes to his life-long struggle to conciliate Turkey and Armenia, the article said.

An artist and programme coordinator at the site, Sena Basoz, says the projects is unique in that it Turkey has a long history of sweeping trauma under the rug.

“One trauma immediately follows the next. Unfortunately, there is no culture of confronting the past and the things that have happened,” Basoz said

For programme coordinator Nayat Karakose, the project also serves the purpose of inspiring visitors to open similar sites at other places.

Efforts for similar projects in other parts of Turkey have failed, including one featuring the infamous prison in the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakır, which was effectively transformed into a centre for martial law for political prisoners following the Sept. 11, 1980 coup, the article recalled. 

Neither is there a memorial site in the central Anatolian city of Sivas, where on July 2, 1993 a mob of Islamic fundamentalists burned a hotel where a convention was being held, killing 35 people, mainly intellectuals and artists from the Alevi faith.

The Hrant Dink Memorial site projects began in 2013 and experts visited 15 countries and similar projects in South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Germany, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States, among others. It is the result of hundreds of archived texts, audio and video recordings collected over the years.

The site takes visitors on a journey as Dink narrates the painful history of the Armenian minority in Turkey, including discrimination, hate, expropriations, the military coup in 1980, torture and genocide.

“In Turkey, we are being taught not to remember but to forget — by the state discourse, by school curricula and by media narratives. We have just begun to learn what it means to actively and critically remember the past,” Karaköse said.