Remembering through projects of dialogue Hrant Dink
Emrah GülerIt has been eight years today since Hrant Dink, Turkish-Armenian journalist and editor-in-chief of the bilingual newspaper Agos, was assassinated by a young nationalist. Dink was an advocate of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and wrote ardently about human and minority rights. At his funeral, two hundred thousand marched, chanting “We are all Armenians” and “We are all Hrant Dink.”
Soon after, a foundation was established in his name to foster and normalize the relationship between Turkey and Armenia, with the motto, “The border will first be opened in our minds.” The activities and projects at the heart of the Hrant Dink Foundation lie in furthering cultural dialogue and serving peace and empathy between the two cultures. Here is a look at some of the foundation’s projects.
The foundation’s most popular project is a film competition called Films About Conscience, which is much more than a competition. For the last five years, the short film project is offering an interactive platform for amateur and professional filmmakers to become part of a community and talk about conscience through film. The project/competition is inspired by Dink’s words, “The voice of conscience has been sentenced to silence. Now, that conscience is searching for a way out.”
Filmmakers are invited to upload videos of no more than five minutes to the project’s website. Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite films and publish comments on the films. Films are uploaded, comments are welcome, votes are encouraged and at the end of a period of six months, a jury selects the final 20 submissions. There are no technical criteria. If your films are less than five minutes and are on the theme of conscience, you are eligible for the competition.
Between March 31 and Nov. 30, 2014, a total of 59 films were uploaded to the website, both from Turkey and abroad. The winners were announced on Dec. 10, 2014, World Human Rights Day. The winning films were selected by a jury including Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante, Director of Istanbul Film Festival Azize Tan, actor and writer Ercan Kesal and writer Şebnem İşigüzel, as well as Dink’s wife, Rakel Dink.
The winning films are collected in a DVD, and recommended to international film festivals, while the first-place winner is awarded an incentive scholarship. You can watch this year’s winner, Burkay Doğan’s short “Şem” (Candle), on the story of a candle trying to flicker the burned-out wishes of others, as well as others on the project’s website (filmsaboutconscience.org).
Another project run by the Hrant Dink Foundation, in partnership with the Civilitas Foundation in Armenia and funded by the European Union, is the Turkey-Armenia Travel Grant. Hoping to increase direct contacts and to promote cooperation between the peoples of the two neighboring countries, the grant has been supporting the travels of 200 people between the two countries. Other supporters of the project include the Community Volunteers Foundation (TOG) in Turkey and the Youth Initiative Centre (YIC) in Gyumri, Armenia.
The grant requires specific goals and activities, such as partnership building and networking, cross-border cooperation projects, exchange programs, academic cooperation and joint productions of culture and arts, among others, from individuals and non-profit civic initiatives. You can check the Beyond Borders Turkey-Armenia website (armtr-beyondborders.org) for the visitors’ experiences and impressions.
Currently, one visitor is set to travel to Armenia to carry out archival research on the Armenian press during the post-genocide period as part of his PhD thesis, while another is going to interview descendants of the 1915 events, associations and institutions for a daily newspaper and later a book.
Coming to Turkey, a photographer will take photos of Armenian-Turkish mixed couples living in Turkey and another visitor will work on a project to create a public online map showing the Armenian heritage in Istanbul. The travel grant is currently open to applications, with the next deadline on March 1, to a selection committee deciding on 25 beneficiaries from Turkey, and 15 from Armenia. Check hrantdink.org for more information on the foundation’s activities.