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January 22, 2012, Sunday

Murder as a collective crime

It was five years ago: In my second column in Today’s Zaman, only three days after the murder of Hrant Dink, I wrote that he was “the victim of the nation-state and nationalism.”

Since then he continues to be victimized by the same mindset that prevails in Turkish security institutions, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the judiciary.

The Dink case is a reminder of how deep-rooted and widespread Turkish nationalism, which has defined itself silently vis-à-vis the Armenian question since 1915, is. I think the Turkish subconscious is marked by the events of 1915 so that it cannot recover from it and treat the remaining Armenians, including Dink, as fellow citizens and compatriots.

A year after Dink was murdered then Minister of Defense of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government Vecdi Gönül declared openly for the first time, “If the Armenians had remained where they had lived in Anatolia, we could not have established such a nation-state.” When Minister Gönül uttered these words he rightly faced criticism that he was a “Unionist,” referring to the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in power during the 1915 massacre of the Armenians. But the fact of the matter is that this is the unspoken and yet common belief among Turks, nationalists, conservatives, leftists, you name it.

By linking the establishment of a Turkish nation-state and the Armenian massacre, they implicitly endorse what was done to the Armenians in 1915. This is what I refer to as the subconscious of the Turks being marked by the Armenian question; their “presence” was only possible at the expense of the “absence” of the Armenians. This I think gives way to a guilt complex that cannot be admitted and expressed and a deep sense of insecurity. When Armenians exist, they panic that this happens at the expense of the Turks’ absence. So the presence of Dink as an Armenian in the public sphere deeply disturbed the “Turkish psyche.”

As a result we have all kinds of barriers to the investigation of Dink’s murder. It started right after the murder. The person who killed Dink was photographed in front of a Turkish flag flanked by two soldiers when he was arrested. These photographs were distributed to the media to trigger nationalist sentiments against the Armenians. Again, right after the murder, the İstanbul chief of police declared that the murderer was motivated and led by nationalist sentiments. Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Ertuğrul Özkök wrote that we should try to understand (i.e., sympathize with) the murderer.

All these have turned the Dink murder into an act justifiable simply because it was committed against an Armenian.

So there was complacency all over. It is now a fact that security forces in Trabzon and İstanbul knew well that a plan to assassinate Dink was being prepared. They knew and did not do anything to stop it. How can this be explained? If the “victim” is an Armenian, then “collaboration” or “silence” is the attitude. We also know for sure that he was warned and threatened by an intelligence officer in the office of the deputy governor of İstanbul before his murder.

Even the AK Party government that was receptive to the demands of minorities and in return supported by them did not stand by Dink. I do not remember any member of the AK Party government who attended the Dink’s burial (except an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan).

Later on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the leadership of Ahmet Davutoğlu submitted a defense to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for the Dink case in which Dink was compared to a Nazi leader, and it was argued that restrictions on his writings could not be regarded as a breach of freedom of expression, since they contained “hate speech.” As if this embarrassing comparison was not enough, the defense by the Turkish government also implied that Dink’s murderers were justified: It was Dink who was to blame for his own murder because he was found guilty of insulting Turkishness by the Turkish judiciary.

Apart from this shameful “defense” there are many cases that show authorities did not collaborate to investigate the murder case. At the end the court placed all responsibility on a “lone wolf” without going deeper into his connections. Everyone knows this is a cover-up, not only of the network that murdered Dink but also of our relationship with Armenians. The decision of the court turns Dink’s murder into a “collective crime.”

Previous articles of the columnist