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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 00:13 GMT
Solidarity marks editor's funeral
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul

Hrant Dink's image on a poster
Hrant Dink's funeral became an extraordinary show of unity
The crowd of mourners started gathering hours before the funeral began.

As they surged towards the spot where Hrant Dink was murdered by a teenage nationalist a lone musician played a solemn tune.

By the time the car carrying the coffin of Hrant Dink drew up in front of the office of his newspaper, tens of thousands of people were there to meet it.

Organisers say as many as 100,000 took part in the procession.

The journalist's wife, daughters and friends followed the coffin on foot, dressed in black and in tears.

"It was his love for the truth and transparency that brought Hrant here today," Rakel Dink told the crowd, reading out what she called a letter to her loved one.

"He knew no taboos - and he paid a heavy price."

Breaking taboos

Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink was a rarity in his country.

Old woman carried flowers and a placard
Thousands of mourners declared: We are all Armenian

He was at the forefront of efforts to break the long taboo surrounding one of the most sensitive subjects in Turkey - the mass killing of Armenians by Turks in World War I that Armenia insists Ankara should recognize as genocide.

In 2005 Hrant Dink was put on trial in Istanbul for expressing his views in an article, and was convicted of insulting Turkishness.

Many here believe that singled him out as a target for extreme nationalists.

"He was trying to open a gate of communication, a gate of understanding," said Erman Cicek, a Turkish-Armenian from Istanbul.

"He was trying to talk about Turkish and Armenian history and to find what happened. I think he was killed for this."

His killers probably wanted to divide us and create hatred but they failed
Kivanc Ergu

Controversial in life then, Hrant Dink's funeral became an extraordinary show of unity.

Thousands carried circular black and white placards declaring: "We are all Hrant Dink, we're all Armenian."

"I am not Armenian but I am here today. Do I need to say anything else?" asked Kivanc Ergun, holding one of the placards in her hand.

"His killers probably wanted to divide us and create hatred but they failed."

All police leave in Istanbul had been cancelled and hundreds of riot police lined the streets as the long procession cut through the heart of Istanbul.

People leaned from their windows along the route to fling flowers at the hearse, and applaud.

'Real dialogue'

At an Armenian Orthodox Church across town, Patriarch Mesrob II led a funeral service for a congregation that included officials from Armenia, as well as Turkish ministers and foreign diplomats.

Crowds carry a banner
Songs, signs and slogans were in Armenian as well as Turkish

"Hrant fought to develop relations between Turkey and Armenia," the Patriarch said, in a sermon delivered partly in tears.

"It is mystical that his funeral became an occasion when Armenian and Turkish officials came together. He would have been happy to see this turn into a real dialogue."

Out on the streets - where songs, signs and slogans were in Armenian as well as Turkish - some were cautiously optimistic.

"This is an expression of solidarity. It is also a reaction against nationalism, which is the reason for the victimisation of Armenians in Turkey," said Osman Kavala - a friend of Hrant Dink.

"It is the first time such a solidarity is openly expressed here. That is very important."


There is no guarantee this mood will endure or be exploited.

But the killing of such a high profile figure has certainly sparked a period of deep soul-searching in Turkey, where the nationalist mood has been rising in recent months.

Shocked - ashamed, even - many now accuse politicians of all camps of fanning the flames, in the run up to elections this year.

And though there is scant sign of a response as yet, there is mounting pressure on the government to abolish Article 301 - the law used by nationalists to bring charges of insult against Hrant Dink and dozens of other writers.

Many signs in the funeral crowd read "Murder: 301".

As the funeral cars rolled past the emotional crowd for the last time, a speaker on the podium urged people not to cry after today.

"We have to go on to demand a free and democratic Turkey instead," he said.

"Just like Hrant Dink would have wanted."

Mourners gathered at Hrant Dink's funeral

Killing of Dink shocks Turkey
22 Jan 07 |  Europe
In pictures: Dink killing
21 Jan 07 |  In Pictures
Obituary: Hrant Dink
19 Jan 07 |  Europe

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