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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 January 2008, 05:36 GMT
Dink murder still divides Turks
A year after the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul finds that the Turkish nationalism he challenged remains a potent force.

"Why was I chosen as a target?"

Visitor at Hrant Dink audio exhibition
An audio exhibition contains readings of Hrant Dink's works
That is the now prophetic-sounding title of an article written by Hrant Dink some time before his murder.

The Turkish-Armenian writer was referring to his trial and conviction for "insulting Turkishness".

A year later Hrant Dink became a physical target, when he was shot and killed in the street. A teenage nationalist, now on trial, has admitted killing him.

To mark the first anniversary of his murder on 19 January, 19 Turkish celebrities have recorded a selection of his articles onto tape.

They are now part of an audio exhibition in an Istanbul side-street, where photos of Hrant Dink gaze down from all the walls.

"The best way to make people know about Hrant Dink is to let him talk himself, with his articles," explains Sibil Cekmen.

She is one of a group of young Turkish Armenians who organised the event.

"I think what's most important is that we remember Hrant Dink not only by crying every 19 January, but by remembering why he was killed and what he was saying. By taking his legacy and carrying it to the future," she says.

'We're all Hrant Dink'

It was Hrant Dink's stance on the mass killing of Ottoman Armenians by Turks in 1915 that led to his murder.

Armenia and more than 20 other countries say it was genocide; Turkey - equally adamant - denies that.

Hrant Dink believed - and wrote - that Turkey must confront and examine that chapter of its past for the sake of all its citizens, including the Armenians.

We have to go on, but I have no reason to be hopeful
Karin
Friend of Hrant Dink
To some Turks, that was intolerable.

Hrant Dink was shot from behind in broad daylight, just a few metres from the office of his Turkish and Armenian language newspaper, Agos.

A teenage boy from northern Turkey is on trial for murder.

The writer's killing provoked a mass protest in Istanbul.

Tens of thousands of Turks took to the streets. As the coffin passed they shouted "We're all Hrant Dink, we're all Armenian!"

It was an unprecedented act of solidarity with Istanbul's tiny Armenian community.

Hrant Dink's close friend, Karin, calls that a miracle in the current nationalistic climate in Turkey.

But she does not feel that spirit has since spread.

"Let's look. There are more trials; there was a song praising the murder. There are all these attacks against Christian clergy. Do we have anything to be positive about?" Karin asks.

"It was one of the darkest years, but what can we do? We have to go on. But I have no reason to be hopeful."

Like many, Karin believes Hrant Dink was singled out for murder after his trial for "insulting Turkishness", under the now notorious Article 301 of the penal code.

"It was the beginning of the end," she says. "It was a sign - this man is a target, do what you want. That was the message, and the message was understood."

Scars of history

Under pressure from the EU to guarantee free speech, the government has pledged repeatedly to amend the law.

So far it is just talk.

Hrant Dink murder scene, 19 January 2007
Dink was shot dead outside his offices in broad daylight
Article 301 was used against at least 55 more people in 2007, according to a new report from the organisation Bianet, which monitors press freedoms.

"In Turkey everyone knows they can talk about sensitive issues, but they also know they will probably end up in court," says Bianet editor Erol Onderoglu. "It's a high price to pay."

"We want just to speak and write freely. If people like Hrant Dink want to say what happened in 1915 was genocide, then it's not necessary to stop the debate with a stupid article of law," he adds.

But Hrant Dink has not been silenced.

At the exhibition where his articles are displayed this week there is a notebook in one corner.

Inside, visitors have written him messages.

An Armenian man describes how he was taught to keep quiet about the events of 1915.

"Now I am clear in my thoughts, but I can't voice them," he writes. "When will I be able to speak out?"

And a couple of pages on, there is a message from a Turk.

It is addressed to "Brother Hrant".

"They can kill you, but they cannot kill your ideas - your thoughts," Onur writes. "They can't stop those of us who agree with you expressing your views, unless they kill each and every one of us.

"We miss you. Sleep in peace."

SEE ALSO
Q&A: Armenian 'genocide'
11 Oct 07 |  Europe
Obituary: Hrant Dink
19 Jan 07 |  Europe

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