The International Hrant Dink Award has been presented for the third time on Hrant Dink's birthday, Sept. 15, to Taraf daily's Editor-in-Chief Ahmet Altan and Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho.
Receiving his award from journalist Hasan Cemal and writer Adalet Ağaoğlu, who were both on the 2011 International Hrant Dink Award Jury, Altan said that it was not such a joyous occasion to receive an award named after someone who was murdered.
Dink was shot dead by an ultranationalist teenager outside the offices of the Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper in İstanbul in January 2007. The investigation into his murder has stalled even though the suspected perpetrator and his immediate accomplices have been put on trial. However, those who masterminded the plot to kill him have yet to be exposed and punished.
“I receive this award only to entrust it to my safekeeping. I would gladly give this award right here to an honorable and courageous leader who would reveal the real murderers of that crime. I hope for that day will come,” Altan said in his speech upon receiving the annual award.
Following the award ceremony Altan was asked by Today's Zaman if he expects that that day will come soon, in the term of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government.
“This was a unique murder. I think neither this government, nor any others actually want to solve it. The reason for this is that almost every part of the state was involved in the conspiracy to kill Hrant Dink. In fact, the real murderers are known. Therefore, the government goes after a lot of murders courageously but it stands in the shadows in shameless cowardice when it comes to this. Do I have hope that it will happen soon? I always have hope in Turkey -- a country of miracles, and where very bad and good things can happen. His death was a very bad thing, and when the real murderers are found, it will be a good day. But, I don't exactly know when this will be. Even if the government is not powerful enough to do it, the day will come, and that day is not too far away,” he responded
There are several court cases against Altan, for his writings in Taraf daily, and Altan estimates he has faced up to roughly 100 years of jail time. Altan is either loved or hated as his newspaper Taraf, which has either been backed by pro-democracy supporters or accused of being “singularly dedicated to bashing the military.”
The award is presented to two people from inside and outside Turkey “who work for a world free of discrimination, racism and violence, take personal risks for their ideals, use the language of peace, and by doing so, inspire and encourage others.”
The other recipient of the award Cacho, who has written extensively in the media on people trafficking, organized crime, drug trafficking, gender violence and official corruption, said at the award ceremony that she traveled around the world to reveal victims of violence and abuse against women and children.
“This is one of the most serious problems of the 21st century, trafficking of women and girls,” she said. “These girls and teenagers become sexual objects for sale. Our culture encourages human objectification as an act of freedom.”
Her books include “Bite the Heart” in 2005, “Memories of an Infamy” in 2008 and “Slaves of Power” in 2010, based on interviews with girls and women trafficked and forced into prostitution.
Currently a columnist for El Universal, the biggest daily in Mexico, she conducts workshops assisting victims of human trafficking, but following the publication of her 2005 book “The Demons of Eden,” which exposed the powers behind child pornography in her country, she was sued and imprisoned, and later released upon an offer of political asylum from the UN Human Rights Council.
She said that she is honored to receive the award in the name of Dink.
“Thanks to him, many of us have gained a better understanding of a need for further democratization in Turkey,” she said. “I receive this award; I salute his memory, his professionalism and his legacy on freedom of expression and human rights all over the world.”
At the opening of the ceremony, Dink's widow Rakel Dink said, “I know that goodness over badness, light over darkness will prevail and overcome lies.”
Before the award ceremony, a music group from Van -- “Yerkir Union” performed and was joined by Rojin, who sang songs in Kurdish, and Yavuz Bingöl, who sang “Sarı Gelin” in both Turkish and Armenian.
The night ended traditionally with a bit of footage of Hrant Dink tiptoeing back to stage to pick up the award he had forgotten at the podium of another award ceremony in 2006 -- the Henri Nannen Awards -- which promotes freedom of the press and courage.