On Hrant, Birand and others

On Hrant, Birand and others

On the sixth anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink, a friend and colleague, tens of thousands of people filled not only the Teşvikiye Mosque on Jan. 19 but the entire neighborhood for the funeral of Mehmet Ali Birand, another friend and elder brother in the profession.

Hrant was heinously murdered by the bullets fired by a hit man and, unfortunately, the past six years have not sufficed to shed light on the faces of those who hired the hit man. I was sure right from the beginning anyway that those who ordered the blatant murder would somehow be protected and that only a young boy, like in many other similar hate killings, would be sentenced. Six years on we are still waiting for the Turkish judiciary to explain how an organized hit involving people in Trabzon, as well as military and civilian intelligence, could be carried out by a young boy without gang involvement.

It sound like a joke, but this is Turkish justice. Four-star generals, top professors in the country, intellectuals and journalists have been behind bars, some longer than four or five years because the Turkish justice system fears they might tamper with evidence or escape the country. Man, the former head of the Higher Education Council was on a tourist trip to the Aegean islands when you ruled for his detention. What did he do? He immediately returned to İzmir and reported to the police. Well done! He has been deprived of his freedom since that day, serving at the Silivri concentration camp an imprisonment that he was not sentenced to yet.

Obviously, no one would want to see criminals walk freely in the streets of this country. If people staged a coup against the elected government of the country; if they abrogated the Constitution; if with the pretext of “equality in justice” ordered the hanging of some 50 young people “one from the right, one from the left,” they should of course give an account of their crimes in front of justice. But, with hearsay, some forged electronic “evidence,” information obtained through eavesdropping and the testimonies of some bloody-handed terrorist chieftains, a witch-hunt cannot be undertaken, precious personalities should not be subjected to character assassination, to say the least.

Hrant was a journalist courageous enough to shout to the face of Armenians why they were wrong in pursuing some sort of a vendetta against the entire Turkish nation; to the face of sovereigns in Turkey, he said that if at a certain time in history all of a sudden the Armenian population of Anatolia became almost extinct, a genocide was obviously staged. We may disagree on terminology. Instead of genocide we may say “great pain” or “great trauma;” whatever. Would using other terminology change what was experienced in the first quarter of the previous century on this land? We have to frankly admit our failures and learn to embrace our past. Hrant’s ideas live on even louder today.

Birand was a journalist. He was not obsessed with ideologies. Without prejudice he was working like hell, expecting people around him do the same. That was why he was able to ask the most difficult questions, use the most difficult terminologies, like presenting a bouquet of roses. For example, it was he who used first the “Kurdish problem” terminology back in 1984.

There were also efforts to silence him with the forged testimony of a terrorist during the 1997s so-called “post modern coup.” Tens of thousands marched after his coffin in full respect for an exemplary journalist while the actors of the post-modern coup are now in prison facing trial. Is it divine justice? No, unfortunately, it’s a Turkish tragicomedy…