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The day before his death, Hrant Dink sent an arti­cle he had writ­ten for the mag­a­zine Radikal in which he told how he had been cho­sen as a tar­get and the con­stant haunt­ing afflict­ing him, his fam­i­ly and oth­ers close to him. “I feel like a dove in the streets of a big city, fear­ful and free at the same time. But I know that the peo­ple in this coun­try would nev­er dare touch a dove,” he concluded.

This arti­cle, the last one writ­ten by Hrant, was pub­lished in Radikal 2 on Jan­u­ary 20 2007. Trans­lat­ed by Mar­il­lac and Turquie Européenne, it was pub­lished here on Jan­u­ary 22 2007. We share the opin­ion of our friends of Turquie Européenne who say “Hran­t’s writ­ings must not remain the prop­er­ty of any­one what­so­ev­er, they are our com­mon her­itage and that of human­i­ty”, we share it here with our readers.

As Fearful as a Dove

A sim­ple remark as an intro­duc­tion: I was sen­tenced to 6 months for an offence I did not com­mit, which is to say “an insult to the Turk­ish nation­al iden­ti­ty”. Today, I no longer have any oth­er recourse than that of the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights (ECHR). I had until Jan­u­ary 17 to sub­mit my recourse to this juris­dic­tion: more­over, my lawyers asked me to write, as an annex to my file a note out­lin­ing the unwind­ing of the facts.

I then con­sid­ered it might also be very inter­est­ing to share this text with the gen­er­al pub­lic. Because, in my eyes, the deci­sion, in con­science, of Turk­ish pub­lic opin­ion, is also impor­tant, if not more so, than that of the Euro­pean juris­dic­tion. Had I not been oblig­ed to turn toward the ECHR I would not have felt the need to expose cer­tain facts or to express my feel­ings in this series of sev­er­al arti­cles I am about to pub­lish in Radikal 2. I could very well have kept all that to myself.

But since things have now reached such a point, it seems best to share all this… The ques­tion every­one can­not help ask­ing, not only myself or Arme­ni­ans, is the fol­low­ing: “How is it that all those who were dragged before the courts through the invo­va­tion of arti­cle 301 for hav­ing ‘insult­ed the Turk­ish nation­al iden­ti­ty’ saw their tri­als annulled for tech­ni­cal or judi­cial rea­sons at the very first hear­ings, where­as Hrant Dink was sen­tenced to six months in prison?”

Those who got away

This is not a triv­ial remark or an unfound­ed ques­tion. If one recalls, not a few spins and som­er­saults were need­ed before the tri­al against Orhan Pamuk even began. “What to do? How to get rid of this affair?” For some, the Min­istry of Jus­tice had to autho­rize the launch­ing of the pro­ceed­ings. There­fore, the Min­is­ter was approached.

See­ing how the gun was now osten­si­bly aimed in his direc­tion, the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, under pres­sure, began cov­er­ing Pamuk with crit­i­cism while appeal­ing in his direc­tion so that he would declare “he had not said such things.”

Final­ly, the first hear­ing was held in the Pamuk tri­al. And as Turkey emerged from it, glob­al­ly ridiculed by the van­dal attacks expressed on that ide­al occa­sion, every­thing was done to avoid rep­e­ti­tion of such infamy dur­ing the rest of the tri­al: the judi­cial pro­ce­dure was inter­rupt­ed for for­mal error even before Pamuk’s appeal to the Judge.

Elif Shafak’s tri­al fol­lowed the same pat­tern, more or less. It was dur­ing a first hear­ing — the expec­ta­tion of which had caused great noise and fear in the coun­try – that the tri­al was annulled with­out Elif Shafak hav­ing to appear. Every­one could con­grat­u­late one anoth­er on this tech­ni­cal solu­tion. And Prime Min­is­ter Erdoğan him­self imme­di­ate­ly allowed him­self a phone call to Elif to express his per­son­al satisfaction.

More tri­als were expe­dit­ed the same way, notably con­cern­ing arti­cles pub­lished by jour­nal­ist col­leagues or aca­d­e­mics fol­low­ing the first con­fer­ence on the Armen­ian question.


The unanswered question…

Don’t think I am jeal­ous. Quite the oppo­site. I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly well posi­tioned to know and sym­pa­thize with the very high cost of these tri­als or even of their sim­ple open­ing; as with the cost of all the injus­tices inflict­ed on all those com­rades thus exposed.

No, this is not about jeal­ousy. My prob­lem is in know­ing why all the con­cern and sol­lic­i­tude exhib­it­ed dur­ing these tri­als found no echos in the Hrant Dink affair.

Indeed, we real­ized that these tech­ni­cal escape routes con­ferred a sort of option for the gov­ern­ment faced by a Euro­pean Union demand­ing the abo­li­tion of arti­cle 301: all those deci­sions could be held up as being exem­plary. The only case before which Turk­ish pow­er remained voice­less before the Euro­pean author­i­ties con­cerned the con­dem­na­tion of Hrant Dink. When this tri­al was brought up in the mat­ter of the affair sur­round­ing arti­cle 301 a slab of con­crete fell on the debate.

For, in truth, “how can it be that all these peo­ple who were dragged before jus­tice because of this arti­cle 301 declar­ing they had “insult­ed the Turk­ish nation­al iden­ti­ty” saw their tri­als annulled for tech­ni­cal or judi­cial rea­sons at their first hear­ings, while Hrant Dink was sen­tenced to six months in prison accord­ing to an arti­cle under which, clear­ly, he had com­mit­ted no offence?”

The fact of being Armenian

Yes, we need an answer to this ques­tion! Me, most of all. Because, after all, I am a cit­i­zen of this coun­try and I insist in being treat­ed equal­ly with all the others.

I have cer­tain­ly known many pri­or dis­crim­i­na­tions linked to my Armen­ian iden­ti­ty. Dur­ing my mil­i­tary ser­vice in 1986 in the 12th infantry batal­ion in Deni­zli, all my col­leagues were raised to the rank of sergeant after pro­nounc­ing the oath at the cer­e­mo­ny mark­ing the end of class­es: only one remained a sim­ple sol­dier. I was that one. I was an adult, father of two chil­dren. Per­haps I should not have been so upset by it. Besides, this allowed for cer­tain advan­tages: I would­n’t have to do guard duty or car­ry out del­i­cate mis­sions. But I expe­ri­enced this dis­crim­i­na­tion in a very neg­a­tive man­ner. While fol­low­ing the cer­e­mo­ny every­one was enjoy­ing a few min­utes of hap­pi­ness with their fam­i­ly, I will nev­er for­get that I spent two hours, lean­ing against a lousy shack of cor­ru­gat­ed iron, cry­ing every sin­gle tear in my body.

And when the colonel called me in, his words left me with anoth­er vivid wound: “don’t grieve. If there’s the slight­est prob­lem, come and see me.”

Sen­tenc­ing or acquit­tal under arti­cle 301 obvi­ous­ly has noth­ing to do with the attri­bu­tion of a mil­i­tary rank. And so, no one will ever hear me say: “because they were not sen­tenced, then I should not be sen­tenced either”; or, even worse, the opposite.
But I must admit that as a man used to every form of dis­crim­i­na­tion, I can­not hold back the log­i­cal reflex of ask­ing this ques­tion: “Yes or no, did the fact I am Armen­ian play a role in this decision?”

What I know; what I suspect

And when I con­front what I know and what I feel, there is cer­tain­ly an answer that can be sum­ma­rized in a few words: some peo­ple have decid­ed that, hence­forth, this Hrant Dink was becom­ing too obtru­sive and that he need­ed to know his lim­its. After which, they went to work…

I can well under­stand that this the­sis is too exclu­sive­ly cen­tered on myself and my Armen­ian iden­ti­ty. One can very well say that I’m exag­ger­at­ing. But there you have it, this is also the way of see­ing things that best match­es what I sus­pect… And the facts I have in hand, just like what I am expe­ri­enc­ing leave me no choice oth­er than this the­sis. This is why it was best that I tell you what I am liv­ing on a dai­ly basis and what goes through my mind. After which, you will be free to judge as you see fit.

hrant dink

Draw­ing: Tan Oral

I am shown my limits

I will start by being more pre­cise about what one can find under this expres­sion: “Hrant Dink is too obtru­sive.” Dink has been attract­ing their atten­tion and annoy­ing them for a good while already. Every since he pub­lished Agos at the start of 1996 and evoked the prob­lems of the Armen­ian com­mu­ni­ty, defend­ing its rights, expos­ing its prob­lems, and when speak­ing of his­tor­i­cal posi­tions that were not in con­for­mi­ty with offi­cial the­ses, one must admit he had gone beyond sev­er­al lim­its. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the pub­li­ca­tion on April 6 2004 of a paper about Sabi­ha Gökçen.

In that arti­cle, signed by Dink and titled “Madame Sabi­ha’s secret” the fact was evoked that Armen­ian rel­a­tives and oth­ers close to Sabi­ha had final­ly revealed that Sabi­ha Gökçen, Kemal’s adopt­ed daugh­ter, had come from an Armen­ian orphanage.

When this infor­ma­tion was cov­ered by the news­pa­per with the largest sales in Turkey, Hür­riyet, on the fol­low­ing Feb­ru­ary 21, with excerpts from Agos, there occurred what was bound to hap­pen and Turkey start­ed to teeter on its foun­da­tions. Dur­ing the two weeks that fol­lowed, every edi­to­ri­al­ist in Turkey seized on the top­ic to ren­der pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive com­ments. One could also read and hear var­i­ous dec­la­ra­tions on the top­ic. The most impor­tant one was undoubt­ed­ly the one pub­lished by the Turk­ish army’s Gen­er­al Staff. In this text the high­est mil­i­tary insti­tu­tion in Turkey dis­played its reac­tion to the authors of such infor­ma­tion: “open­ing the debate, no mat­ter what the inten­tion may be, con­cern­ing such a sym­bol is a crime against nation­al integri­ty and social peace.” Accord­ing to these peo­ple, the authors of such infor­ma­tion had secret inten­tions. By sud­den­ly remov­ing the man­tle of her “Turk­ish­ness” from this woman who had become the myth and the sym­bol of Turk­ish wom­an­hood, those peo­ple were attempt­ing to cre­at­ing a earth­quake at the core of Turk­ish iden­ti­ty. Who were those unbal­anced ones? Who was this Hrant Dink? He must absolute­ly be shown his limits.

Invitation to an official meeting

The Mil­i­tary Staff’s dec­la­ra­tion occurred on Feb­ru­ary 22. I lis­tened to it at home on my TV. I slept poor­ly on the fol­low­ing night. I sensed that some­thing would hap­pen on the next day. My nose and my expe­ri­ence did not fail me. My phone rang in the morn­ing: one of the assis­tants to Istan­bul’s pre­fect was call­ing. In a severe tone of voice, he let me know he was expect­ing me at the pre­fec­ture with all the doc­u­ments rel­a­tive to this information.

When I asked what was the pur­pose of such a meet­ing, I was told it was in order to have a dis­cus­sion and to take a look at the doc­u­ments in my possession.

I called my most exprienced jour­nal­ist friends to ask them what such a call could mean. “As this kind of meet­ing is not cus­tom­ary, it isn’t part of a legal pro­ce­dure. How­ev­er, it would be wise to accept the invi­ta­tion with the request­ed doc­u­ments” they advised.

Remaining wary

I fol­lowed this advice, and doc­u­ments in hand I went to see this pre­fec­t’s assis­tant. A most pleas­ant man. When he invit­ed me into his office, I saw there were two oth­er peo­ple sit­ting there – includ­ing a woman. He asked me most polite­ly if these two peo­ple he pre­sent­ed as close con­tacts could wit­ness our meet­ing and if I had any objec­tions to this. Giv­en the gen­er­al cour­tesy dis­played, I sat and said it did not dis­turb me in the least.

The civ­il ser­vant began with­out fur­ther ado. “Hrant, he said. You are an expe­ri­enced jour­nal­ist? Would it not be wise to pay clos­er atten­tion to the infor­ma­tion you pro­duce? What was there about such arti­cles that was nec­es­sary? Take a look at the dis­or­der caused around you. We know you. But the man on the street, what does he know? He may very well lend you false inten­tions. Have a look at the doc­u­ment I have here. The Armen­ian Patri­ar­chate has addressed our ser­vices: accord­ing to some inter­net sites, unbal­anced indi­vid­u­als were attempt­ing to orga­nize oper­a­tions we could qual­i­fy of ter­ror­ist against cer­tain insti­tu­tions of the Armen­ian com­mu­ni­ty. We fol­lowed them and local­ized them in Bur­sa in order to turn them over to jus­tice. But those are the types of peo­ple fill­ing our streets. Should­n’t we take that kind of infor­ma­tion under advisement?”

After the meet­ing was thus begun by the pre­fec­t’s assis­tant, the man among his two guests then start­ed talk­ing and nev­er stopped. He repeat­ed the first man’s warn­ings in a more cut­ting tone of voice yet. He advised me to be on my guard and to avoid any ini­tia­tive that might increase ten­sion in the coun­try. “From cer­tain of your writ­ings, even though we can­not agree with your style, we can see that your inten­tions are not evil. But not every­one is capa­ble of this and you could very well attract social wrath upon your­self.” He warned me in this way a num­ber of times.

I con­tent­ed myself with explain­ing what had been my inten­tion. For one, I was a jour­nal­ist and it was the kind of infor­ma­tion to pro­found­ly moti­vate a jour­nal­ist. I also want­ed to talk about those who remained, the sur­vivors, rather than sac­ri­fic­ing to the com­mon habit of speak­ing only of Arme­ni­ans through their dead. But I was becom­ing aware that it was even more dif­fi­cult to speak of the liv­ing than of the dead!

I was about to leave this office when I real­ized they had not even insist­ed on see­ing or on recu­per­at­ing the doc­u­ments I had brought with me. I asked them if they want­ed them, before hand­ing them over. But from the con­tent of our exchanges, the rea­son for my con­vo­ca­tion was per­fect­ly clear. I had to know what lines not to cross… I had to be care­ful… Or things would go wrong!

At the bull’s eye of the target

To tell the truth, what fol­lowed was not very good indeed. On the day fol­low­ing my con­vo­ca­tion to the pre­fec­ture, in a num­ber of news­pa­pers, edi­to­ri­al­ists began mount­ing a cam­paign claim­ing I was stir­ring hos­til­i­ties toward the Turks: this rest­ed on a sen­tence tak­en from the series under the form of an essay I had pro­duced on the ques­tion of Armen­ian iden­ti­ty. Removed from these texts and from their con­text, it was stripped down and trans­formed: “The new blood that will replace the viti­at­ed Turk­ish blood that will have been shed, already exists in the artery that the Arme­ni­ans will cre­ate between Arme­nia and themselves.”

On Feb­ru­ary 26, fol­low­ing these pub­li­ca­tions, Lev­ent Terniz the Pres­i­dent of the Istan­bul Nation­al­ist Home led a group of demon­stra­tors to the door of the Agos news­pa­per with hos­tile slo­gans and threats against me. The police knew about the demon­stra­tion and had tak­en nec­es­sary mea­sures around the news­pa­per’s head­quar­ters. All the TV net­works and jour­nal­ists had sent jour­nal­ists. The group’s slo­gans were very clear:

Turkey love it or leave it”, “Damn the ASALA”, “We can come at any time in the night”. In Lev­ent Erniz’ speech, the tar­get was very clear: “From today onward, Hrant Dink is the tar­get of our anger and our hatred. He is our target.”

The protest end­ed. But on that same day as well as on the next one, the infor­ma­tion was not relayed by a sin­gle TV sta­tion (except Kanal 7) nor by any news­pa­per (except Özgür Gün­dem). It was obvi­ous that the forces manip­u­lat­ing the nation­al­ist group in front of the offices of Agos had man­aged to place an embar­go – save for two miss­es – on the show­ing of these less than savory images and slogans.

On the brink of danger

hrant dink

Draw­ing: Izen Rozental

A sim­i­lar demon­stra­tion occurred a few days lat­er at the insti­ga­tion of a so-called “Fed­er­a­tion to Com­bat Ground­less Armen­ian The­ses”. Then, it was the turn of Kemal Ker­inç­siz, a lawyer obscure until that day, and his “Union of Great Jurists” to enter the fray.

Ker­inç­siz and his friends filed a com­plaint against me before the Şişli Attor­ney gen­er­al (Istan­bul). The fil­ing of his com­paint served as an accel­er­a­tion to the so-called arti­cle 301 tri­als that had already erod­ed Turkey’s respectabil­i­ty. For me this opened up a new and dif­fi­cult process.

A sort of habit, in fact: dur­ing my whole life, I have nev­er ceased prowl­ing close to risk and dan­ger, and being attract­ed by it. Or is it that they nev­er ceased show­ing sol­lic­i­tude for my per­son?… Be that as it may, I am on the brink of this chasm again. Here I am with peo­ple on my trail again. I could feel them, I could sense their pres­ence. And I knew full well that they were not as com­mon and obvi­ous as Ker­inç­siz’s lim­it­ed troops.

Reading was enough to understand

At the begin­ning of the instruc­tion by the Attor­ney of Şişli of the case against me for “insult­ing the Turk­ish iden­ti­ty”, I was not wor­ried. This was not the first time. I had grown famil­iar with a sim­i­lar pro­ce­dure in Urfa. I had been put on tri­al for the same motive because of a speech pro­nounced in Urfa in 2002 in which I had declared “I was not Turk­ish… but a cit­i­zen of Turkey, and an Armenian.”

I was with­out news of the evo­lu­tion of that tri­al. I paid no atten­tion to it, let­ting my lawyer friends han­dle the hear­ings in my absence.

I was thus per­fect­ly calm when I went to make my dec­la­ra­tion before the Şişli Attor­ney. I trust­ed in the evi­dence of the sen­tences I had writ­ten. On the clar­i­ty of my inten­tions. The Attor­ney would quick­ly under­stand, beyond this sen­tence tak­en out of con­text and mean­ing noth­ing in itself, that by eval­u­at­ing the entire­ty of my text one real­ized I had no inten­tion of “insult­ing the Turk­ish nation­al iden­ti­ty”. That would put an end to the com­e­dy. I was con­vinced that at the term of the inquest, there would be no trial.

But to my aston­ish­ment, a tri­al was opened.

Sure of myself

I did not lose my opti­mism for so lit­tle. So much so that when appear­ing on tele­vi­sion, I rec­om­mend­ed that Ker­inç­siz not rejoice too soon “that I would not be con­demned in such a tri­al and that should I be sen­tenced, I would leave the country.”
I was sure of myself. There had been no inten­tion to insult any­one in my arti­cle and cer­tain­ly not the Turk­ish iden­ti­ty. Any­one tak­ing the trou­ble of read­ing it entire­ly would eas­i­ly under­stand that. Besides, the teams of three experts from Istan­bul Uni­ver­si­ty demon­strat­ed this in the report sub­mit­ted to the court. There was no rea­son to wor­ry, the judi­cia­ry process would even­tu­al­ly come up short over this mistake.

But no. It nev­er came up short. The Attor­ney called for my sen­tenc­ing despite the report by the experts. And the judge sen­tenced me to a sus­pend­ed six months in jail.

When I heard the sen­tence, I found myself trapped by all these use­less hopes I had enter­tained dur­ing the six months of the pro­ce­dure. I was shocked… My dis­ap­point­ment and my revolt reached their utmost limit.

I had held steady dur­ing these months by telling myself: “let them come up with this judg­ment so I can be acquit­ted. You will see then how you will be sor­ry for every­thing you said.” At each one of the hear­ings, it was said I had spo­ken of “Turk­ish blood as a poi­soned blood”. On tele­vi­sion in the news­pa­pers. Rein­forc­ing every time my noto­ri­ety as as ene­my of the Turks.
Fas­cists assault­ed me in the halls of the jus­tice palace with all their racist insults. I was cov­ered with plac­ards filled with slurs. And every day more and more phone calls, emails, threat­en­ing let­ters arrived by the hundreds.

I resist­ed to all that through patience by hang­ing on to the per­spec­tive of my acquit­tal. No mat­ter what, at the moment the deci­sion of jus­tice was ren­dered, truth would come forth in the light of day and all these peo­ple would be ashamed of their actions.

A single weapon: my honesty

But the judg­ment was ren­dered and all my hopes van­ished. I found myself in the most uncon­fort­able posi­tion pos­si­ble for a human being.

The judge had ren­dered his deci­sion in the name of the Turk­ish nation and had thus endorsed the fact that I had insult­ed the Turk­ish iden­ti­ty… I could have put up with many things. But with that, never.

In my opin­ion, con­tempt or insults addressed by a man to those with whom he lives, and for rea­sons of eth­nic or reli­gious dif­fer­ences is noth­ing oth­er than racism: unac­cept­able, unfor­giv­able behav­ior for me. This was the spir­it in which I declared to jour­nal­ist friends who came to ver­i­fy if I would keep my word con­cern­ing a pos­si­ble exile: “I intend to speak with my lawyers; I will appeal and if nec­es­sary I will go all the way to the Euro­pean Tri­bunal for Human Rights. If I am not acquit­ted in the course of one of these pro­ce­dures, then I will leave my coun­try. Because, in my opin­ion, a per­son con­vict­ed for insult­ing his fel­low cit­i­zens has no right to live among them.” In speak­ing these words, as every time I did so, I could not con­tain my emo­tion. My only weapon, my honesty.

Black humor

But have a look at what fol­lowed: the same obsti­nate force that had worked at iso­lat­ing me and turn­ing me into a tar­get in the eyes of all Turks decid­ed then to use this very dec­la­ra­tion to open a new tri­al against me, on the pre­text that I was attempt­ing to influ­ence jus­tice. The entire media of this coun­try echoed my dec­la­ra­tion. But Agos was tar­get­ed at that point: the lead­ers of Agos and myself then found our­selves on tri­al for hav­ing attempt­ed to influ­ence the judge’s decision.

I sup­pose this is what they call black humor. I am the defen­dant in an affair: who oth­er than the defen­dant has more rights to attempt weigh­ing on the judge’s deci­sion? But take a look at this huge joke that says the defen­dant is fur­ther accused of influ­enc­ing the judge?

In the name of the Turkish State”

I must admit that the trust I had placed in the legal and judi­cia­ry sys­tem of my coun­try was severe­ly shak­en. This meant that, con­trary to what a num­ber of politi­cians and states­men may claim, Jus­tice is not as inde­pen­dant as all that. The Judge does not pro­tect the cit­i­zen. His mis­sion is to pre­serve the State.

One can well claim that jus­tice is ren­dered in the nation’s name. But the jus­tice deci­sion con­cern­ing me was ren­dered sole­ly in the State’s inter­ests. Con­se­quent­ly, I would appeal, but what guar­an­tee could I have that the forces that had decid­ed to reduce me into silence would not be over there, in Ankara, just as influent?

Was is not out of this very Court of Appeals in fact that thor­ough­ly ques­tion­able deci­sions had emerged, notably as per­tains to prop­er­ty rights of non-Mus­lim minorities?

Despite the Attorney General’s efforts

But we appealed. And what happened?

The Attor­ney Gen­er­al of the Court of Appeals came to the same con­clu­sions as those of the experts in Istan­bul: he called for acquit­tal. But the Court of Appeals con­demned me again. Just as I was cer­tain of what I had writ­ten, the Attor­ney was so cer­tain that he had under­stood that he went against this deci­sion and moved the mat­ter over to the Main Cham­ber of the Court of Appeals.

What can I say? This pow­er that had so ful­ly devot­ed itself to stand­ing in my way and that, most prob­a­bly, had used all its weight through meth­ods unknown to me, at each stage of this affair, this pow­er had thus been behind the stage lights again. And in the end, the major­i­ty at the Gen­er­al Cham­ber of the Court of Appeals pro­nounced me guilty for “insult­ing Turk­ish identity”.

Like a dove

Hence­forth it was very clear that all those who had worked at ren­der­ing me inof­fen­sive and iso­lat­ing me had suc­ceed­ed. Through the nau­se­at­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion under which they had drowned soci­ety, they had man­aged to cre­ate a not-neg­li­gi­ble mass of peo­ple who saw in Hrant Dink a man “insult­ing Turk­ish iden­ti­ty”. My com­put­er discs are now sat­u­rat­ed with these sen­tences filled with hatred and threats.

(One of these let­ters was post­ed from Bur­sa: because I found it par­tic­u­lar­ly threat­en­ing, I sub­mit­ted it to the pros­e­cu­tion in Şişli, with no response to this day).

How many of these threats are found­ed, how many are fan­tasies? I have no way of know­ing. For me, the main and least bear­able threat con­sists of this psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture I inflict on myself. What gnaws at my mind, is the ques­tion of know­ing what all these peo­ple think of me. What a pity that I should be so bet­ter known now than in the past and that I should sense so well the looks aimed at me: “look, that one, isn’t he Armen­ian?” And I reflex­ive­ly begin to tor­ture myself. This tor­ture has two faces: curios­i­ty and wor­ry. One the one side, atten­tion, on the oth­er, fear. Exact­ly as for a dove… About the same way as it does, I have one eye out on the look­out, on my right, on my left, in front or behind me. My head is as agi­tat­ed as the dove’s… And just as quick to turn in a blink of the eye.

Hey you, Ministers!

What did the Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Abdul­lah Gül say? What did his col­league at Jus­tice say again? “Let’s not over­state the impor­tance of this arti­cle 301. Is there a sin­gle per­son who has gone to jail because of it?”

As if jail were the only pun­ish­ment… Here, let me give you a pun­ish­ment… come on, take a good look… Lock a man into con­stant fear like a dove, can you know the real pain of it, can you know it, you Min­is­ters, Sirs? Have you ever fol­lowed the least dove? These are not easy things I am liv­ing through… That I am liv­ing with my fam­i­ly. I have thought of real­ly leav­ing the coun­try. Espe­cial­ly when the threats also tar­get­ed my close ones… Each time, in these sit­u­a­tions, I have felt powerless.

I could have defend­ed my own will but I had no right to risk the life of my close ones.

I could have been my own hero, but I could not have played the hero by putting any­one else’s life in danger.

And in those moments of dis­tress, I gath­ered togeth­er my chil­dren, my fam­i­ly. I found shel­ter near them. They trust­ed me, count­ed on me. Wher­ev­er I went, they would have fol­lowed. Whether I stayed or I left, they would have been at my side.

Staying and resisting

But then, leav­ing, where? In Arme­nia? For some­one such as myself who can­not stand injus­tice, how would I have held up faced by that which I know exists across the bor­der? Would I not incur greater risks over there than here? Liv­ing in the West was not my style. Going over there for three days and ask­ing myself about return­ing home on the fourth was not a viable solu­tion either for some­one like me, so attached to his coun­try. What would I have done in those countries?

The calm would have destroyed me! And above all, going from a boil­ing hell to a too-calm par­adise would not have suit­ed a tem­pera­ment like mine. I am of the race of men wait­ing for their hell to become a paradise.

Stay­ing and liv­ing in Turkey is at once our true wish but also the respect­ful neces­si­ty owed to our friends, to all those we know and to all the oth­ers we don’t know, who sup­port us and who fight for a democ­ra­cy in Turkey.

So we would stay and we would fight. But if some day we were forced to leave… Then, as in 1915, we would take to the road… Like our ances­tors… With­out real­ly know­ing where we were going… On foot on the roads on which our steps would car­ry us… in pain and sadness…

We would then leave our coun­try. With­out being led by our hearts, but by our feet…Wherever they would take us…

Fearful and free

I hope with all my heart that we will not have to dis­cov­er such a depar­ture. Besides we have so many hopes and so many rea­sons not to want to live through such a thing.

Today, I am fil­ing a request to the Tri­bunal in Stras­burg. I don’t know how many more years this will last. What I do know and which reas­sures me some­what, is that until the end of that tri­al, I will con­tin­ue liv­ing in Turkey. Should a deci­sion in my favor be ren­dered, then it would cer­tain­ly be a great hap­pi­ness. It would mean I did not have to leave my country.

The year 2007 risks being even hard­er for me than the ones that came before. The tri­als will go on. Oth­ers will begin. Who knows how many more injus­tices I will have to face?

But at the same time, I will hold fast to this real­i­ty as my sole guar­an­tee: yes, I can see myself in the wor­ry and anguish of a dove, but I know that in this coun­try peo­ple do not touch doves.
Doves can live in the heart of cities, in the warmth of human throngs. Not with­out fear, of course, but in such freedom!

Hrant Dink
Jan­u­ary 19 2020

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
(This English version is adapted from the French translation.)
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