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Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2007, 17:44 GMT
Killing of Dink shocks Turkey
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul

Grave prepared for Hrant Dink
A grave has been prepared in Istanbul for Hrant Dink
The spot where editor Hrant Dink was shot dead on the street on Friday has become a shrine.

A steady stream of people has been laying carnations and lighting candles in his memory.

An enormous photograph of the journalist hangs from the window of his Turkish-Armenian newspaper offices above.

Alongside their flowers, visitors have left notes of sorrow and support.

This weekend Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Hrant Dink "a true son of this land".

Since his death press headlines have raged against a shameful and ugly crime; a silent march of solidarity is planned for his funeral on Tuesday.

In death, Turkey has claimed Hrant Dink as its own. In life though the relationship was complex.

Controversy

Hrant Dink was at the forefront of efforts in Turkey to shatter the long taboo surrounding the fate of the Ottoman Armenians. It remains one of the most sensitive issues in Turkey today.

Hrant Dink
Hrant Dink was one of Turkey's most prominent Armenian voices

A Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, the newspaper editor openly challenged the official Turkish denial that the mass killing of Armenians by Turks during World War I was genocide.

"Hrant Dink was killed because he was Armenian first, and second because he had the courage to write, think and speak differently to the crowd," Ismet Berkan wrote in Radikal daily this weekend. He argued that Turkey's streets today were filled with nationalist wolves.

Dink was put on trial more than once for expressing his views.

He was the first writer to be charged and found guilty of "insulting Turkishness" under a controversial article of the reformed penal code, also used against the Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk.

Turkey has been under sustained pressure from the EU to repeal or reform that law, known as Article 301, to ensure freedom of speech here.

The government has resisted - many say out of a reluctance to make waves ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections this year.

Pressure for reform

But it was the conviction for insult that thrust Hrant Dink into the public spotlight.

Ogun Samast
Ogun Samast, 17, was arrested with several others at the weekend
"We have killed a man whose ideas we could not accept," Orhan Pamuk said, when he visited Hrant Dink's home and office on Sunday.

"We are all responsible for his death, but above all those who still defend Article 301 and insist it should stay are guilty - those who launched a campaign against Hrant Dink as an enemy of the Turks and marked him out as a target."

Calls for the government to repeal Article 301 are now getting louder. The main defence previously mounted by ministers is that no writer has actually been sent to prison under the law.

"Now we can say 'no' - but there is someone who was shot and who died," Mehmet Tezkan wrote in Vatan newspaper on Monday. "Then they (the ministers) will be silenced."

For months now, the nationalist mood has been rising here - fuelled in part by what is widely seen as the EU's unfair treatment of Turkey during accession talks.

All the political parties here have played to that nationalist gallery, taking a hard line not only on the Armenian genocide allegations and on reforming A301 but on Cyprus too, on the property rights of ethnic minorities and on the Kurds.

"After this we - the reasonable people in this country - must put our hats on the table and examine what is happening to our country and where all this is leading us," Semih Idiz wrote in Milliyet newspaper on Saturday. "This inhumane murder can have no excuse."

Public shock

The killing of Hrant Dink appears to have sparked a public backlash.

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets on Tuesday to follow his coffin. The only banner in the procession will read, "We are all Hrant Dink, We are all Armenian."

"When Hrant Dink was found guilty of insulting Turkishness, he said it wasn't the thought of prison that distressed him but that he'd been declared a traitor by his own people," remembers Sali, who runs a shop across the street from where Hrant Dink died.

"Anyone who says that surely loved this country as much as I do."

"If anything positive at all can be taken from this, it's that the reaction shows how much Turkey has changed," says Haluk Sahin, a writer who was himself prosecuted under Article 301.

"Even those who did not agree with what Hrant Dink said will come out for his right to say it. People here are furious at this violence. They are rising up to defend democracy, our minorities, free speech. Everything Hrant Dink symbolises."




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Dink killing
21 Jan 07 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Hrant Dink
19 Jan 07 |  Europe



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