I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Hrant Dink’s murder (more like assassination) today in front of his Agos newspaper offices, in Istanbul Turkey.
I met Hrant Dink at the L.A. premiere of “Screamers“, the documentary by Carla Garapedian featuring System Of A Down. Hrant is interviewed by Carla in the film where he explains how the “deep state” in Turkey is utilizing an outdated penal code, Article 301 to try him, Orhan Pamuk, and other journalists, writers, and human rights activists for “insulting or offending Turkishness.”
In his newspaper Agos, Hrant discussed issues important to the Armenians of Turkey. He was quite careful not to insult anyone in Turkey present or past regarding the Armenian Genocide or any other “sticky issues” that may be taken negatively. He instead tried to truly understand why so many people in Turkey were in denial of their past, why it was important to have a “real democracy” there where everyone can speak freely without worrying about retributions. He was by no means a fanatic nor extremist, but was a humble, kind, yet truthful individual who cared about Turkey, his country, and being Armenian, his culture and heritage.
He yearned to bridge the understanding between Armenians and Turks to get over the pains of the past stemming from the Armenian Genocide by the Ottomans in 1915. The difference between Hrant Dink and Orhan Pamuk and other writers or journalists incriminated under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code was that Hrant Dink was of Armenian descent and therefore may have been viewed more so as a traitor than other Turks of Turkish descent.
After many attempts at appealing the 3 different cases brought against him in reference to Article 301, Hrant was ready to take his case of freedom of speech to the European Court of Human Rights. In the last article he wrote for Agos on Jan. 10th, he made it very clear that the overwhelming amount of death threats against him were psychologically punishing him for speaking out. He felt his life was in extreme danger and asked for help from security officials of the country, but was not given any. When friends encouraged him to leave Turkey to avoid danger, he said that if he left now, he would be betraying the fight for democracy in Turkey, and that wouldn’t be fair to others in his situation. I am not that heroic, I would have left. And funny enough when we met, he mused with me, calling me heroic, the whole time while I looked into his gentle eyes and knew in my heart that he was the true hero. It’s easy for me to speak out against things, because at worst, I’ll be faced with brutal disagreement, where he was faced with prison terms, harassment, psychological torture, and now death.
So he was killed, brutally, in daylight, with bullets to the head, another beautiful soul silenced no more.
Hrant Dink’s cases along with Orhan Pamuk’s past case and many others facing incrimination in Turkey under Article 301 of the penal code encouraged me to work with Amnesty International in getting the word out and working on trying to reverse this unjust incrimination of the freedoms of speech there