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Turkey

Death Of An Armenian Editor, Crimes Of Turkish History

Seven years after the assassination of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink, silence remains on the crime of incitement to murder - just like last century's Armenian Genocide.

In Istanbul for the 98th anniversary of the 1915 mass killing of Armenians
In Istanbul for the 98th anniversary of the 1915 mass killing of Armenians
Ahmet Insel

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL – Last Sunday was the seventh anniversary of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

For seven years, the "coalition of silence" reigns, blocking the revelation and prosecution of those responsible for the atmosphere that led to the death of the so-called “treacherous Armenian.” These forces guided and encouraged the murderer, and praised the act he carried out, and continue to do so seven years later.

Those who pushed a 17-year-old to commit this murder, knowing he would get a reduced sentence, have been touched by nobody. The court voiced its powerlessness. Those within the state structure who knew such a murder was in the works got promoted; one even became a cabinet member.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently removed the chief of police who failed to prevent a corruption probe regarding his close circle, crossed his name, but awarded those who were responsible for allowing the murder of Hrant Dink. The conservative coalition of power in vicious conflict today was in harmony when it came to prosecute the triggerman, and to not confront the rest.

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Dink was 52 when he was gunned down in 2007 by a teenager (Wikipedia)

The prime minister who does not hesitate one second to shake down the police and judiciary to defend himself, the government, his AKP party's administration holds on to a hypocritical silence to not to reveal the power organization behind the murder of the Armenian newspaper editor.

Poison gas

The murder of Hrant was not an isolated event. The killing of Sevag Balikci while serving in the military in 2011 in the Batman province by a “stray bullet” from his friend's rifle on April 24; the anniversary of the great massacre the Armenians were exposed to in 1915 and after, the great crime, the Genocide was not an isolated event either. Nor were the slayings of the Italian Priest Andrea Santoro and the employees of the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya. All of these acts are a manifestation of the same mentality. Even if they were not ordered from somewhere specific, they are acts fueled by the same poison gas the ruling powers have released in this society's atmosphere for centuries.

The criminals are the ones who use this poison gas of nationalism for its own ends; and for its secular version ultranationalism, the Muslim-Turk chauvinism that has sought to create a 99% Muslim society – and yet are not satisfied with that, and pray onward for a 100% Muslim Turkey. This is the foundational crime of the Republic of Turkey. The murder of Hrant is a link in the chain of these massacres, murders, rapes, confiscations, pillages and organized violations of rights.

And on forgiveness?

Of course, it is not easy to face such a great crime, especially if the individuals who forged the founding links in this criminal chain have long since died. Moreover, if the guilty parties have inherited an entire society that is in partnership with the crime. The title of French criminal lawyer Antoine Garapon"s 2002 book describes the situation between Turkey and the Armenians: “Crimes That Can Be Neither Punished, Nor Forgiven.”

Armenians marched by Turkish soldiers, 1915 (Wikipedia)

In his book, Garapon states that the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials were firsts, and it became even harder at the end of the 1990's to hide behind national sovereignty to avoid prosecution for crimes against humanity. He says it is a meaningful coincidence that the NATO planes started bombing Serbia to stop the mass murder in Kosovo on March 24, 1999 was the day the British House of Lords decided to eliminate the immunity of Chile's bloody dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

That day 15 years ago is the symbolic moment when the traditional right of sovereignty, by both judicial and militaristic means, could no longer stand in the way of the fight against such crimes. This was followed by the first international crime investigation against a sitting head of state and the start of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on October 12, 2001. The International Criminal Court was founded in 2002, authorized to prosecute crimes against humanity within its jurisdiction.

The aim of the court is to answer the mass murders in the name of humanity. Because, more often than not, either the legal system of the countries where these crimes are committed is unsuitable to try them, or the criminals have the power to challenge the law.

In fact, these are crimes the penal law are often unfamiliar with; ones committed, encouraged or assisted by a political decision from a ruling administration. Garapon states these crimes are committed by making a part of the society, mostly a big part, partners in crime with the support of the rule of law. And so it is not possible to pursue these crimes with the traditional penal law methods – and gets even more complicated if they were committed during a state of war.

Time to speak

The Allies of World War I have jointly declared the ethnic cleansing committed against the Armenians by the Ottomans was “a crime against humanity and civilization” on May 24, 1915. The concept of crimes against humanity was first mentioned in relation to this event.

A great national alliance in Turkey has been at work since then to leave this great crime undefined and the partners in crime unprosecuted; if we do not count the parentheses opened and shortly closed during the 1919 trials. There is a great coalition of silence and cooperation formed to deny the great crime committed against the Armenians; to leave it undebated, forgotten.

This is the seventh anniversary of the slaying of Hrant. In a few months, it will be the 99th anniversary of the act that eliminated the Armenians from these lands. Call it anything we want: crime against humanity, Genocide, the great crime, the great disaster, the great sin; we are talking about the same enormous crime in the end.

Is it not time for today's Republic of Turkey to declare its deep sorrow for such a crime, and apologize to all Armenians after 100 years of silence?

And let us not forget: this great crime is not just a legacy of the past. The same crimes are being committed today, right here. The ones who defend the offenders are together keeping their silence alive. We will not be a part of this by staying silent ourselves. For Hrant, for justice.

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