Turkish parliament rejects inquiry on Hrant Dink murder three days before anniversary

Turkey’s parliament this week voted against a parliamentary inquiry to shed light on the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink who was killed on Dec. 19, 2007.

Dink, the editor in chief of Agos newspaper and an advocate of reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, was shot dead outside his office by then-teenager Ogün Samast who defines himself as Turkish nationalist. More than 100,000 people marched in the funeral procession for Dink.

"We are all Armenians," chanted mourners in an extraordinary show of affection for the journalist. This year, thousands are expected to gather anew on Jan. 19 outside the Agos offices on the 12th anniversary of his assassination

Dink was often critical of both Turkey's denial that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War One constituted genocide and the Armenian diaspora's campaign for its international recognition.

The journalist was prosecuted three times for denigrating Turkish nation and received numerous death threats from Turkish nationalists after a series of articles he wrote on Armenian identity.

"I feel like a pigeon," Dink wrote in his last article published the day he was gunned down. “Like a pigeon I wander uneasily amidst this city, watching my back constantly, so timid and yet, so free.”

Garo Paylan, Armenian member of parliament for the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) read out that article, before his motion for the inquiry was put to the vote on Thursday.

Hosrof Dink said 12 years ago he felt nervous after reading the same article and tried to reach his brother Hrant. Hours later, Hosrof Dink received a call to tell him that Hrant Dink had been shot.

Hosrof Dink
Hosrof Dink

When Dink was murdered, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister at the time and now president, promised the "murder would not be lost in the dark tunnels of Ankara”. Twelve years later, the trial of police officers charged with complicity in the killing still drags on.

The Dink murder case is one of the most visible and critical political trials to take place in Turkey in recent years. But the investigation into alleged police involvement in Dink’s murder appears to have become victim to political infighting.

Prosecutors first linked the killing to a secularist-nationalist conspiracy dubbed Ergenekon. That case was dismissed in 2014 after the break-up of the Islamist alliance between Erdoğan and followers of the Gülen movement that the government says went on to carry out an attempted coup in 2016.

Hrant Dink

The Ergenekon conspiracy appears to have been made up by prosecutors loyal to Fethullah Gülen, the reclusive U.S.-based leader of the Gülen movement, as a way of sidelining secular opponents in the military and civilian establishment.

Now the original judges and the police in the case have been charged with being members of the Gülen movement and a new set of prosecutors are investigating possible links between the killers and the Gülenists. Critics fear those really responsible will evade justice.

"We don't expect justice. Eventually, some will be imprisoned, stay behind bars for tens of years and then be released. This is not justice for us," Hosrof Dink said. He said a culture of coexistence was impossible, without confronting the crimes in the past.

“For us justice means the democratisation of Turkey. To prevent another murder of such a mentality,” he said.

Yet rights campaigners say that in the last 12 years Turkey has further drifted away from democratic values.

Hrant’s family and friends have worked tirelessly to keep Dink’s memory alive and to keep public attention on the murder case.

Hosrof Dink

The Hrant Dink Association, established after his death, has become one of the leading organisations in Turkey working for peace and reconciliation. The association is nowadays busy with transforming the old offices of the Agos newspaper into a memory site, a museum, scheduled to open in April under the name “23.5 Hrant Dink Memorial Site”.

The name comes from an article Dink wrote in 1996 entitled “23.5 April” which said Turkey was psychologically stuck between National Sovereignty and Children's Day on April 23 and Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on April 24.

Hrant Dink

Similar to other memorial sites in the world, the Dink memorial will also function as a reminder of complicated, violent pasts, traumas and crimes against humanity.

"There is no revenge, no grudge, but confrontation. We must leave our agendas behind and take the truth as a reference. We must create the language of peace hand in hand for the happiness of humanity without asking for any material interest," said Hosrof Dink.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.