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January 20, 2013, Sunday

Six years after Hrant Dink

On Jan. 19 Hrant Dink, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian bilingual weekly Agos published in İstanbul, was commemorated on the sixth anniversary of his assassination, which was part of a plan to create chaos in the country and provoke a military coup against the elected government. Hrant's passing away inflicted deep pain on people who knew him, like myself, and millions who respected his cause.

What has happened during the six years that have elapsed since his death? The underage person who pulled the trigger that put an end to his life has been captured and sentenced, but those who were behind the plot to murder him have not yet been identified and put before justice. The hope is not lost, however, that the continuing investigation may eventually lead to the deciphering of the criminal organization responsible for his killing.

Those who made the plan to kill him have not yet been identified although six years have elapsed, but the cause which Dink gave his life for, that is Turkey facing the truth about the great tragedy that befell Ottoman Armenians close to a century ago, has been embraced by an ever growing part of Turkish society. The best indication of this is the publication of a wide range of books in Turkish dealing with the plight of Ottoman Armenians, including distinguished Turkish journalist Hasan Cemal's book titled “1915: Armenian Genocide” this year which has already sold tens of thousands of copies.

Dink did not have any doubts that what happened to Ottoman Armenians in 1915 and 1916 was genocide. But his efforts were not particularly directedtowards the recognition of that genocide by the Turkish state, but towards the people of Turkey learning the truth about the hundreds of thousands of his kin who lost their lives due to massacres, starvation and epidemics as a consequence of the decision by their own government to deport almost the entire Armenian population to the Syrian desert during World War I. His primary aim was to help open the way for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. Has this road been opened? Yes, I believe it has.

There is a greater clarity of mind on two basic issues among those who are concerned about Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. First is the wickedness in holding responsible an entire nation for the crimes committed by a government of theirs nearly 100 years ago. The other is the wickedness in Turkey's government still today assuming the responsibility of crimes perpetrated by a gang of dictators who led the Ottoman Empire to its demise.

I came across one of the most remarkable indications towards the growing clarity over the above issues, reading in a Turkish newspaper an interview with Sona Tatoyan, an Armenian-American filmmaker preparing to produce a film based on the Armenian author Micheline Ahromyan Marcom's book “Three Apples Fell from Heaven.” In the interview Tatoyan speaks about her mother: “Yes, she sometimes did speak of the wicked things they have done to us. But then she would begin to praise the Anatolian people, their food and land. I believe it was she who taught me that one should not blame a people for what their government has done.”

In response to the question as to what would she feel if the government of Turkey would recognize and apologize for the genocide, she says: “I would be relieved. If it continues not to do this. … I do not know. As an Armenian I do not need Turkey to admit it was a genocide. This is what I am trying to explain to the diaspora. By insisting on hearing this word they are in fact pushing the government of Turkey to a stronger position. Because such insistence only means that we cannot get well before you admit…”

Tatoyan adds: “I shall prepare the Schindler's List of the Armenian genocide. … The list of good-hearted people who risked their lives to save their neighbors as well as the monsters. … At the time there were also Armenians who betrayed each other. They too will be on the list. …” (Radikal, Jan. 14, 2013.)

Thanks to Sona Tatoyan for raising these issues.

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