I was sitting in a forum interview with Taner Akcam at the Armenian Community Center. This was written at the time of the event, outlining both the subjects of genocide and Hrant Dink.
He has been called in for a weekend of events to commemorate the 6th anniversary of Hrant Dink’s brutal murder, who was shot from the back by a member of Ergenekon, a young man lightly praised at the time, angering the people, both Armenians and Turks. We still haven’t discovered all those behind this brutal murder, the perpetrators part of an organization with roots deeper than the Ergenekon, according to Akcam.
Dink was well known among the Armenian population of Turkey, but his greatest achievement lay in making Armenians known to the Turks. Akcam outlines what Dink’s general philosophy was- “he was an armenian, but also a citizen of Turkey.” Dink simply wanted peace.
Turkey’s general society is rather used to assassinations. Hundreds, if not thousands have fallen needlessly through such disturbing means. It is, however, the first time that an Armenian was assassinated for insulting Turkishness and thousands stood up in response. It is the first time that year after year the people stand up continuously in memory of this man. It is the first time that the common Turkish citizen cries out against the injustice of such senseless killings, the barbarity of such massacres.Hrant’s success as a martyr lies in his ability to touch the people’s hearts. He has left behind a legacy that might make him into the Martin Luther King of Turkey. The youth are questioning their government and the lies they are fed. People around Turkey respond to the issue of genocide, often not as vehemently denying the issue as they used to.Akcam is asked about the commemorations of the genocide and the effectiveness of the traditional methods. His response: Go to Istanbul and observe from the inside on that day or bring one of the young activists in the anti-racism grassroots movements to change things up and bring in some excitement, a different perspective to stir the pot a little.
When asked about the historians’ commissions and the effectiveness of this, Akcam replies that it is not only inefficient but utterly counterproductive so long as both people retain their uncompromising mindsets. Dink believed instead in the opening of borders, his theory being that the issues between our peoples would be solved near immediately. What separates us as a people and feeds into the anger and pain we have smoldering within our hearts is the lack of understanding between the populations. No one can belittle the enormity of the crimes in the past, but there is no reason to continue this silent warfare to this day.
We should be focusing on working with the Turkish domestic opposition to further our cause and solve pertinent issues. While the diaspora has influence, it requires many messengers in between in order to place enough pressure on Turkey to make any small change or give in to any small demand. Instead of trying to hold our ears with the opposite hand, as the saying goes, we should take the direct route and attack through the surest points to ensure justice prevails in the end.
“Justice without democracy is not possible and democracy is not possible without justice”- Taner Akcam