The route of the funeral march was eerily like that of my “Stroll around Istanbul’, the subject of my first blog, through the old European area of Pera, over the Golden Horn and into Old Stamboul. I got off the Metro at Shishli and walked down Halaskargazi Avenue where I was soon caught up in the crowd.
The hearse had just left the Agos office, outside which Dink was killed, for the Armenian Patriarchate over the Golden Horn, and we followed behind, a very long way behind, for it seemed that all Istanbul was here, or at least Istanbul’s critical mass, it’s Europeanized middle-class, sick of Law 301, or rather, as the posters were saying “Katil 301″, ‘Killer 301”, through which anyone can be convicted for insulting Turkishness, which, in most cases, has meant questioning the official version that there were no deliberate mass killings of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915, that there was no genocide. Killings there, says the official version, on both sides. It was war: Turkey was fighting with Germany, and many Turkish Armenians were helping the Allies.
No one has yet been convicted. Hrant Dink got off with a six-month suspended sentence. Elif Shafak was acquitted after being brought to trial when a character in her The Bastard of Istanbul, raised the Armenian Question, and Orhan Pamuk’s trial was abandoned on a technicality. But Article 301 brings these writers into the public eye, and that of the ultra-nationalist groups.
This is what happened with Dink. The story is well-known by now. The unemployed 17-year-old kid, Ogün Samast, from Trabazon, on the Black Sea coast, was befriended by Hasal Yayal, who had spent ten days in prison in 1994 for trying to blow up MacDonalds. With a group of similar no-hopers, he was brainwashed and given shooting lessons by Yayal. Nationalist websites sharpened his hatred of Dink. Ogün was chosen to be the assassin because he was the best shot and fastest runner. He made three reconnaissance trips to Istanbul before last Friday. Then, when Dink went out to the bank, fired three times, killing Dink instantaneously. His image was picked up by the CCTV. His father contacted the police. Ogün was arrested as he returned to Trabazon and confessed. The question now is whether this was just a small group of nutters or something much more closely orchestrated, with émininces grises in high places. The amateurness of the murder, with no attempt to hide his face from the camera, his keeping the gun and returning home give one the idea it was a very amateur affair, but many suspect otherwise.
“Hepimiz biraderleriz, hepimiz ermeniyiz”, “We are all brothers, we are all Armenians”, is the favourite slogan we shout as we descend in the springlike January sun in this winterless Europe to the Golden Horn. All traffic has been diverted. many have taken a day off work. And it is the university vacation. We are all Armenians, not Turks, thus belying one of the myths of the Turkish Republic. And in Kumkapi, in Old Stamboul, our destination, the old Armenian ladies in their white headscarves are out in mourning for Hrant Dink, a link with a culture many of them have lost and a language their grandchildren do not speak.
Hrant Dink’s picture is pinned up next to that of Atatürk in the local photocopying shop. An unlikely combination, as Atatürk was hardly a friend of the Armenians. Let’s go to Ziya Gökalp’s The Principles of Turkism, published originally in 1920, and the most influential work behind many of the concepts behind Atatürk’s Republic. I use Robert Devereux’s 1968 translation, Brill, Leiden.
Gökalp developed the concept of Turkish nationalism for the new Turkish Republic, founded when Atatürk defeated the Greeks in 1922, when the last Sultan was deposed. It would be centred on folk Anatolian values; 97% of Turkey was now, after all, in Anatolia.It would be anti-Ottoman. And it would be Turkish. Other languages and cultures would be excluded. Those brought up in Turkey would be made to feel Turkish and would be expected to give all they had for the Turkish cause. Whether of Albanian, Arabic, Thracian or Syrian origin, they would share “a common language, religion, morality and aesthetics” (p.15). Their spirituality would be directed towards their nation, which would be”a source of rapture”(p.16), and only our native society “envelops our soul in ecstasies and makes our life happy” (p.16). We should befriend all those who say “‘I am a Turk'”, but, more somberly, “Punish those, if there be any, who betray the Turkish nation”(p.16).
As did Hrant Dink in the eyes of seventeen-year-old Ogün Samast……