* Article by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek


May 14, 2007 issue - Over the past five years, President Bush has made
various efforts to reform the Arab world. They have all stumbled over one
enormous obstacle. In the region, the people who win elections are not
democrats. They seem to believe in elections (at least as long as they
win), but not in the individual rights, laws and traditions that create a
genuine liberal democracy. The administration has pushed for elections in
Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt, only to find that religious
fundamentalists have triumphed in most of them. Except in Turkey. In
Turkey the popular ruling party, the AK despite some background with
political Islamas proved to be the most open, modern and liberal political
movement in Turkey's history. That extraordinary achievement may now be in
peril because of the overreaction of Turkey's secular (and unelected)

All the political and legal maneuvering aside, the issue at stake is very
simple. Does the AK Party have a hidden Islamic agenda that it would
implement once its nominee for the presidency, Abdullah Gul, attained that
office? I put that question to the urbane Gul, currently the foreign
minister, during a phone conversation last week. "No," he said flatly. "But
why listen to what I'm saying now? Look at what we have done in government
for four and a half years. We have worked harder than any party in Turkey's
history to make this country a member of the European Union. We have passed
hundreds of laws that have freed up the economy and strengthened human
rights. Why would we do this if we were trying to Islamize Turkey?"

I asked him whether he thought Turkey should adopt Sharia, Islamic law,
which is a goal of almost all Islamist parties around the world. "No," he
replied. "There is no possibility of introducing Sharia in Turkey. We are
harmonizing Turkey's laws with the EU's standards in every area. Is this

Gul is right. The secular establishment's suspicions about the AK are best
described by Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyul as "fact-free paranoia." The
Army memorandum accusing the AK of Islamic tendencies points as evidence of
an Islamic agenda to two isolated cases where headmasters allowed students
to sing Qur'anic verses and celebrate Muhammad's birthday on Turkey's
Republic Day. That's not exactly a sign of an impending theocracy.

The other issue that keeps coming up is the headscarf, which under Turkey's
coercive secularism is actually banned in public buildings. Gul's wife
wears one, and Turkey's elites are in a tizzy that a man who will occupy
Kemal Ataturk's position has a wife in a headscarf. Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan's daughters felt similarly and went to Indiana University,
where they had the freedom to wear whatever they wanted unlike in Turkey.

"I have no intention of forcing or even asking anyone to wear a headscarf,"
Gul explained. "It's a matter of personal choice. Not all the women in my
family wear them. If I don't ask my family to do it, why would I ask
others? In fact, were I to try to force Turks to wear headscarves, there
would be a negative reaction from my own family."

The crucial player now will be the Turkish armed forces, which have deposed
four governments over the past five decades. I asked Gul what he thought
their attitude was going to be as events unfolded. "I have talked with the
Army chiefs several times in the last week," he said. "I am sure that they
will respect the democratic process. [Interfering with it] is not any part
of the Army's role in a modern democracy. But I understand that they have
concerns, and we will work things out together. As a Turk I am proud of the
armed forces. And as foreign minister I have had excellent dealings with

I asked Gul whether Islam and democracy were compatible. "Of course," he
said. "Turkey is a Muslim country. But that doesn't mean we should mix
Islam and politics. It would be bad for both." Rejecting any comparison
between the AK and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, he said, "We are not an
Islamic party. Religion is a matter for individuals, not politics. The
Turkish Constitution speaks of a secular state, and we agree with that.

"I don't like Islamic political parties," Gul added. "But as Muslim
societies democratize, you will see greater religious expression everywhere
in society. It is a consequence of democracy. People in Muslim countries
are devout, socially conservative ... You cannot fight against this. You
have to understand it and allow some expression of this belief."

The European Union and Condoleezza Rice have warned Turkey's generals to
respect the democratic process. My guess is that they will, and not only
because of outside pressure. Over the past five years, Turkey has gone
through a quiet revolution and is now an increasingly genuine liberal
democracy. The secular demonstrators against the AK held up signs that said
NO SHARIA, NO COUP. That is what most Turks seem to want. They will not
accept being treated like denizens of a banana republic.

* Editorial in International Herald Tribune

May 3, 2007


The long struggle between Turkey's generals - the self-appointed custodians of secularism - and the growing popularity of parties rooted in Islam has taken a dangerous turn. Both sides need to step back from the brink for the sake of Turkey's democracy and its hopes of joining the European Union.

The crisis came to a head after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-oriented party nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to be Turkey's next president, and the Constitutional Court overturned his election to the post by the Parliament. Gul's supporters see the decision as a desperate attempt by Turkey's secular elite to hold on to power.

As president, Gul would have had the power to nominate judges and university deans and to approve or veto nominations to the cabinet and other sensitive government positions.

Gul is a moderate who has kept Islam largely out of public policy during his four years in government. But his wife is known for wearing the Islamic head scarf in public, which offends the military's rigidly unyielding vision of secularism.

Army leaders had responded to his nomination with an unmistakable threat to overthrow the democratically elected government, a threat that must have influenced the Constitutional Court, which itself is part of the secular establishment of Turkey.

Turkish democracy has outgrown this kind of army tutelage, which has brought it four military coups since 1960.

The European Union rightly denounced the latest threat, but the Bush administration equivocated. Washington needs to tell Turkey's generals, through diplomatic and NATO channels, that a military coup would have highly damaging consequences.

While the generals' threats are out of line, some of the fears of Turkey's secularists are real and understandable. Turkish citizens, particularly Turkish women, enjoy legal rights, intellectual freedoms and economic opportunities that are regrettably rare elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Hundreds of thousands of Turks marched this weekend in Istanbul and Ankara to demonstrate their support for secularism and their anxieties about Gul.

Erdogan and Gul have done a good job of keeping their religion separate from their politics while instituting reforms to bring Turkey closer in line with European democratic standards. But given the disquiet that any religious inroads into politics creates in Turkey, they would do well to reassure secular Turks.

One useful step would be for the party to run a more politically and religiously inclusive set of candidates in parliamentary elections, which seem likely later this year.

During the Cold War, Turkey guarded Europe's frontier against Soviet expansionism. Today, it occupies an equally important position as a true Muslim democracy on Europe's frontier with the Islamic world. Washington has a clear interest in helping Turkey keep its democratic balance. It needs to leave Turkey's generals in no doubt where it stands.

* An excerpt from the State Department Press Briefing

May 2, 2007


QUESTION: United States supports Turkish democracy, there are a lot of statements on that -- a few statements, I mean. My question is about that: How has U.S. support Turkish democracy? What does support mean? How does support Turkish democracy?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I don't think the United States needs to be dictating to Turkey how its own internal politics should work, but it means exactly that. Turkey is a friend and NATO ally. We fully support the right of the Turkish people to determine who their leaders are going to be. We certainly reject any kind of external interference into Turkish domestic political affairs and we certainly also wish to see, just as the Prime Minister said the other day, that the Turkish people should be able to decide through the ballot box who their leaders are going to be and who's going to be in charge.

QUESTION: May I follow?

MR. CASEY: Hold on, Mr. Lambros. Don't jump out of your seat quite yet.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. CASEY: Okay, I'll let him follow up, since he asked the question, and then you can follow up on his follow-up.

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes. On the same subject.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there any change on other issues such as committing PKK terrorism, Kirkuk and murder in Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Well no, our positions on those issues remain the same. Certainly we want to work with Turkey and the Government of Iraq to try and combat the threat that's posed from the PKK. I think you heard a little bit from some of our briefers earlier in the week about that subject. I know General Ralston continues his mission and continues his contacts both with Turkish and with Iraqi officials, but we remain fully committed to working with the Turkish Government and the Iraqis to deal with that problem. On Kirkuk, I think you've heard our answer on that one before and I just refer you backto what we said previously.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Follow up on Turkey. Mr. Casey, the late popular Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said, "Democracy in Greece at the gun point" by U.S.-supported dictator Colonel George Papadopoulos. The popular Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said yesterday, "Today democracy in Turkey has been shot with a bullet" by the dictator today, General Yasar Buyukanit, but so far, I know who is behind. Question: Are you really concerned, Mr. Casey, about democracy in Turkey, which has been brutalized by the Turkish generals?

MR. CASEY: Well, thank you for that trip down memory lane, Mr. Lambros, but --


MR. CASEY: Look, I think the Secretary made clear in the remarks she made to the traveling press on her trip what our position is. I've stated it here again. I think you heard it from Sean the other day. We believe that a free and democratic Turkey in which the Turkish people decide for themselves who their leaders are is critical for that country. It is critical for Europe, and it's critical for the world and we will continue to support and call for respect for the constitutional order and democratic process in that country.

QUESTION: One more for the Army. A leading editorial of Washington Post, Mr. Casey, wrote yesterday "that Bush Administration quietly asked the Turkish Army to remain in its barracks" where they belong and leave the politicians alone. Do you agree as the Department of State?

MR. CASEY: Do I agree with The Washington Post editorial? Well --

QUESTION: Do you agree with the (inaudible) in common politics --

MR. CASEY: Well, since I did see -- since I did happen to see the members of the --

QUESTION: -- vote in internal politics?

MR. CASEY: Well, since I did happen to see the members of the editorial board of the Post earlier today, I certainly wouldn't want to say anything to offend them. But Mr. Lambros, U.S. policy is U.S. policy. It's quite clear we support the democratic order in Turkey. We wish to see the constitution, the ballot box rule in Turkey. And I think the Secretary and everyone else has made that quite clear. Certainly we don't want the military or anyone else interfering in the constitutional process or doing anything in an extra constitutional way.

QUESTION: Thank God.

* An op-ed by Suat Kınıklıoğlu in International Herald Tribune

May 3, 2007


Ankara/ The Turkish Constitutional Court's decision to block the election of a new president was an unfortunate and unnecessary intervention in Turkey's political process by the powerful secular elite.

The secular establishment - which has the powerful support of the military - claims that the election of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a member of the moderately Islamic governing AK (Justice and Development) Party - would challenge the secularism that is at the heart of the modern Turkish state.

But if the record of the last five years under AK Party rule is any indication, those fears are misplaced. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his government have shown themselves to be shrewd pragmatists willing to operate within Turkey's secular democracy. In fact, the very popularity of the AK Party is due to its success in distancing itself from the Islamist Virtue Party.

The governing party's moderation and success have become an inspiration for a wide range of moderate Muslim elites in the Middle East.

Those outside Turkey who view the recent mass rallies in Turkey in support of secularism as an expression of Western values should think twice. Most militant Turkish "secularist" are in fact suspicious of Turkey's aspiration to join the European Union, often strongly anti-American and generally uncomfortable with globalization.

By contrast, the AK Party has led one of the most impressive pro-democracy drives in Turkish history and has brought the country into accession negotiations with the European Union. The Turkish economy has grown on an average of 7 percent over the last five years, and has attracted close to $50 billion in foreign direct investment in three years.

Not surprisingly, polls indicate strong support for the AK Party while a weak opposition is struggling to pass the 10 percent threshold quota.

By blocking the election of Gul, a politician who has kept Islam largely out of public policy, the secularists are denying Turkey a critical opportunity to further moderate the AK Party. What is lost on the militant secularists is that the AK Party will eventually transform into a German-type Christian Democratic Party if it is allowed to do so.

The Turkish establishment must understand that it cannot intervene in the political process forever. It must allow Turkey's Muslim democrats to moderate themselves by learning and experiencing power and responsibility within the democratic process. This is the only way Turkey will find its elusive domestic political consensus.

In any case, the primary reason behind the intervention of the secular establishment was not fear that Turkey would become Islamic. Their fear was that the democratization drive, led in part by hopes of entering the European Union, will erode their power.

In this respect, Gul's nomination touched a key nerve of Turkey's fragile democracy -relations between the civilian government and the military, which perceives itself as a guardian of secularism and has ousted four elected governments since 1960.

The Turkish president not only appoints all judges and university rectors, but is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with the authority to appoint the uniformed chief of the army.

Erdogan has now declared that he will seek early elections, as well as sweeping constitutional changes that would make the president popularly elected, rather than elected by the Parliament.

Thus the real question behind the crisis is what sort of democracy will prevail in Turkey - one under a secular elite with an authoritarian flavor, or an open and transparent democracy under Muslim democrats.

Suat Kiniklioglu is director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States' Ankara Office. His views are his own and do not represent the views of the German Marshall Fund.

* Statement by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

En route to Egypt/May 1, 2007

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the European Union has warned the Turkish military not to intervene in the current dispute over the choice of a new president for Turkey. Does the U.S. feel the same way that the Europeans do on this?

SECRETARY RICE: The United States fully supports Turkish democracy and its constitutional processes, and that means that the election, the electoral system and the results of the electoral system and the results of the constitutional process have to be upheld. Yes. The answer is yes, the U.S. would be in a similar position.

* An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor

May 1, 2007


That strategic ally so vital to NATO; that bridge between Europe and the Middle East; that symbol of a relatively stable, secular democracy in a Muslim nation: Could Turkey now rupture over Islam's role in public life?

On Sunday, at least 700,000 protesters marched in Istanbul, insisting that Turkey maintain its secular laws and demanding the resignation of the government, which is led by the Islamic Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Sparking the protest is the election of Turkey's president, who is chosen by parliament - which in turn is dominated by the AKP. At first the AKP prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wanted the job. That met with a backlash from demonstrators and a warning from the military. Last week, the AKP foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, became the party's official candidate - setting off Sunday's much larger protest and another military warning.

What's objectionable about these men? Their wives wear the head scarf, a sign of Islamic modesty.

The controversy stretches further than a piece of silk fabric, although the covering itself is no small matter. The strictly secularist Constitution forbids wearing a head scarf in a public building. The ban is thanks to the revered founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who also gave women the right to vote and changed the alphabet from Arabic to Roman letters.

The protestors fear that a head scarf in the presidential palace would be just the first step to an official Islamic influence on public life. They point to AKP-Islamic "creep" through patronage, textbooks, and tolerance of radical Islam.

The presidency, able to veto legislation and appointees, has kept the AKP in check, the protesters point out. If the head-scarf crowd takes this job, too, it will be all over for modern Turkey, they warn.

But in five years of power, the AKP has been a modernizer. Mr. Gul has advanced Turkey's drive to join the European Union. Mr. Erdogan has pushed human rights reforms (he still has more to do). The economy has sprinted ahead, and per capita income more than doubled. The military's role conforms more closely to EU norms. And Gul and Erdogan profess respect for secularism.

It can't be denied, though, that Turkey is feeling its Islamic roots. Nearly 50 percent declare themselves observant Muslims. That the AKP wants devout Muslims to be able to wear head scarves to school and wants fairer treatment for graduates of religious schools seem reasonable demands by American standards.

And there's the rub. Ataturk founded Turkey on the French secular model, in which religion is not just separate from, but subordinate to, the state. One need only look at the 2005 riots by the French immigrant community, many of whom are Muslims, to see what can happen when one group feels suppressed and discriminated against.

Turkey needs to better accommodate religion in the public sphere. If it's overreach that secularists fear (and there are some grounds for this), they should take heart in checks on government that are functioning, including their own protests. If they want more checks, they should consider changing an electoral system that has given the AKP disproportional power.

Rule by fundamentalists of both stripes - either secularists or Islamists - will only harm Turkey.

Copyright C 2007 The Christian Science Monitor

* An editorial in the Washington Post

May 1, 2007


The 'secular' opposition and military try to prevent the free election of a new president.

TURKEY'S ATTEMPT to consolidate a liberal democracy in a predominantly Islamic country has reached a turning point. The parliament is due to elect a new president this month, and the ruling AK party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds a commanding majority of seats. Mr. Erdogan has led the most successful government in recent Turkish history; polls show that his party remains by far the country's most popular. His nominee for president, Abdullah Gul, has served capably as foreign minister and is well regarded in Western capitals.

In a fully mature democracy Mr. Gul's election would be a foregone conclusion. Instead, Turkey entered this week in crisis, with the Supreme Court considering an opposition attempt to stop the vote on procedural grounds and the military issuing an ominous warning that it might intervene. The reason is the background of Mr. Gul and Mr. Erdogan: Both have political roots in moderate Islamic parties and are supported by many Turks who would like to see the country relax the rigid secularism its governments have practiced since the end of World War I. The fear that control by the AK party over both the posts of president and prime minister might allow for such a change prompted the military's pronouncement and a demonstration by hundreds of thousands of people in Istanbul on Sunday.

The record of the past few years strongly suggests that Western governments have no grounds to support the attempt to stop the election, much less a military coup. Far from pursuing an Islamic agenda, Mr. Erdogan has led Turkey's effort to join the European Union, implementing numerous progressive reforms that previous governments failed to accomplish. An economic basket case five years ago, Turkey now is rapidly growing and modernizing. In the teeth of fierce anti-American sentiment stirred by the Iraq war, Mr. Gul has been a friend of the United States. He and Mr. Erdogan have promised repeatedly to respect the secular constitution; to assuage the opposition, Mr. Erdogan chose not to follow previous prime ministers who had sought the presidency, though he is the country's most popular politician. The fears about Mr. Gul boil down to mostly symbolic matters, such as whether his wife will wear a head scarf in public.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the opposition challenge, the result would probably be a new general election, which could give the AK party a new mandate, or force it to compromise with the opposition. Mindful of its low standing among Turks, the Bush administration has tried to avoid being drawn into the political conflict while quietly urging the Army to remain in its barracks. But U.S. support for a democratic outcome -- an election untainted by military pressure -- should be unambiguous. Turkey stands to benefit if the millions of people who support the AK party can be fully included in a political system that for years was controlled by an elite tainted by incompetence and corruption. In a region where Islam and
democracy have yet to be fully reconciled, fears about mixing the two are reasonable. For now, however, the principal threat to democracy in Turkey comes not from the AK party but from its opponents.

* The New York Times editorial on Turkey

May 1, 2007


The long struggle between Turkey’s generals — the self-appointed custodians of secularism — and the growing popularity of parties rooted in Islam has taken a dangerous turn. Both sides need to step back from the brink for the sake of Turkey’s democracy and its hopes of joining the European Union.

The crisis came to a head last week after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-oriented party nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to be Turkey’s next president. In that position, Mr. Gul would have the power to nominate judges and university deans and to approve or veto nominations to the cabinet and other sensitive government positions. Mr. Gul is a moderate, but his wife is well known for wearing the Islamic head scarf in public, which offends the military’s rigidly unyielding vision of secularism. Army leaders responded to the nomination with an unmistakable threat to overthrow the democratically elected government.

Turkish democracy has outgrown this kind of army tutelage, which has brought it four military coups since 1960. The European Union has rightly denounced this latest threat. But the Bush administration has equivocated. Washington needs to tell Turkey’s generals, through diplomatic and NATO channels, that a military coup would have highly damaging consequences.

While the generals’ threats are out of line, the fears of Turkey’s secularists are real and understandable. Turkish citizens, particularly Turkish women, enjoy legal rights, intellectual freedoms and economic opportunities that are regrettably rare elsewhere in the Muslim world. Hundreds of thousands of Turks marched this weekend in Istanbul and Ankara to demonstrate their support for secularism and their anxieties about Mr. Gul.

Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gul need to address these concerns. One useful step would be for Mr. Erdogan’s party to run a more politically and religiously inclusive set of candidates in parliamentary elections, which seem likely later this year.

During the cold war, Turkey guarded Europe’s frontier against Soviet expansionism. Today, it occupies an equally important position as a true Muslim democracy on Europe’s frontier with the Islamic world. Washington has a clear interest in helping Turkey keep its democratic balance. It needs to leave Turkey’s generals in no doubt where it stands.

* Commentary by Morton Abramowitz and Henri J. Barkey in the Wall Street Journal

April 24, 2007


By midnight tomorrow, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan will decide the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) candidate for president of Turkey. Ten days ago, in an unprecedented gathering demonstrating the polarization gripping that country, hundreds of thousands marched in Ankara against Mr. Erdogan choosing himself. They chanted such slogans as "no imam in Cankaya" (the presidential palace) "and the army should do its job"(getting rid of Mr. Erdogan).

Ironically they insist that he remain in the more important job of prime minister. Given the growing clamor, as well as concern from many in his own party wanting their best vote-getter to remain prime minister, this cannot be precluded.

The rising popular tensions and talk of military coups reinforce the perception that the upcoming presidential election and parliamentary ones likely to quickly follow represent a historic turning point. For the first time in Turkey's modern history, an Islam-influenced political party will control the two most important institutions of the state, the presidency and parliament. This would be true even if Mr. Erdogan remains prime minister, because the president is elected by the parliament which the AKP dominates. Many fear a decline in Turkey's secular state and a reorientation of its foreign policy, away from the West and toward the Islamic world.

Control of the executive and legislative branches gives AKP the ability to appoint university rectors, bureaucratic administrators, and to alter important pieces of legislation and social conventions. With the power to appoint many judges, the AKP will in effect control all branches of Turkey's democracy. Even the military—Turkey's most autonomous body—fears that an AKP president may interfere with promotions.

The principal concern for most secularists is not the introduction of Shariah law, but rather the greater infusion of religion into all aspects of Turkish life. Many elements of the party have been pushing hard to enhance the position of religious schools and particularly relax the ban on headscarves, especially in universities. In short the nature of Turkish life will change.

One cannot be oblivious to such concerns because they also are based on secularists' firm belief that Mr. Erdogan cannot be trusted and whatever his words and policies—e.g., his dedication to European Union membership—they are a smokescreen for darker purposes.

Still, judging by Mr. Erdogan's record the past four years, his agenda will be far from "Islamist." The AKP came to power democratically, and by most indications has governed well: The economy is booming, industry flourishing, EU-oriented reforms are in full swing, and Turkey is a rising power in the region.

Regardless of who becomes president, the AKP will still have to worry about the Turkish military looming large over politics, its own desire to enter the EU with all the socioeconomic concessions that entails, and the enduring democratic imperative: to produce results and retain the confidence of the population to win elections. Hopefully, continued AKP domination will finally lead to the growth of a serious opposition party, missing in Turkey for years.

While the new president has to assume an above-party persona, this will clearly not satisfy the strongest secularists for whom the AKP, Mr. Erdogan and his headscarf-wearing wife remain anathema. Still, whether Mr. Erdogan remains prime minister or becomes president, there is little realistic threat to Turkey's democracy. Surveys show Turkey's people becoming more religious, but also adamantly opposing an Islamic state. The correctives of a rapidly growing civil society, a press increasingly fond of freedom and democratic accountability will remain.

If Turkey achieves this transition peacefully, it will signal the normalization and maturation of its politics—especially because Mr. Erdogan's success will come against the military's wishes. In the last 47 years, the Turkish military—the protectors of Ataturk's secular legacy—initiated four coups against elected leaders. In a country where a chief of staff's press conference gets more interest than one by the president or prime minister, it will take sustained political and economic
stability, a combination which has so far eluded Turkey, to remove the fear of military intervention from politics once and for all. The AKP and Mr. Erdogan, anxious not to rock the boat and confirm they are the reliable conservative party they claim to be, may well prove their critics wrong and oversee just such a period, particularly if the EU helps.

Mr. Erdogan's Turkey has become a more confident and active international player, and its foreign policy is no longer American-centric, a result of changing geostrategic realities, the blossoming of its economy and a floundering U.S. policy in the region. Most importantly Mr. Erdogan, despite all the European obstacles, has realigned Turkey closer to the EU, continues to pursue membership, and offered dramatic concessions to resolve the Cyprus conflict.

While the U.S. and Turkey have many common policies, they continue to have differences on matters such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Hamas. Under Mr. Erdogan, Turkey has established an independent voice in the Middle East, but both countries have tried to minimize or overlook their differences and recognize a common interest.

Turkey today is not the Turkey of 20 years ago—largely a U.S. supplicant, threatened by Moscow and suffering economically. Turkey's strength and new assertiveness can complement U.S. strategic interests and should be welcomed, even if Americans have to work harder to manage the bilateral relationship.

Iraq, however, looms large as a problem, even as Turkey's leaders fervently hope the U.S. succeeds in keeping Iraq together. Turks feel they have lost much from America's military involvement in Iraq. It has brought them face to face with a long dreaded nightmare: a Kurdish state next door and its political impact on Turkey's own Kurds. Coupled with shoddy EU treatment and rising anti-Americanism, this has re-aroused xenophobic nationalism.

Present Turkish concerns focus on two issues: a proposed 2007 referendum on whether oil-rich Kirkuk is to be included in Iraqi Kurdistan, which they vehemently oppose; and the unwillingness of the U.S. or the Iraqi Kurds to eliminate the anti-Turkish PKK insurgents based in northern Iraq. Both issues are straining relations with Washington and can quickly develop into a full-blown crisis. Recent threats by some Iraqi Kurdish leaders have prompted ominous counter-threats from Turkish generals. If the situation is not managed prudently, it may portend a dramatic shift in the balance of the U.S.-Turkey alliance and is, perhaps, the biggest danger to continued
AKP rule.

Whether Mr. Erdogan becomes president or remains prime minister, Turkey will not be "lost" as some in Washington—not the U.S. government—fear. The Turkish people's ties to the West, democracy and secularism are hard to sever and capable of withstanding great challenges. Nor is there any indication that Mr. Erdogan or his party will attempt a dramatic excision. Turkey's growth and dynamism lies with the West.

Morton Abramowitz, a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, is a former American ambassador to Turkey. Henri J. Barkey is professor of international relations at Lehigh and concurrently public policy scholar at the Wilson Center. This article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

ABD'den 301, Ermenistan ve Irak mesajı

ABD’nin Avrupa ve Avrasya’dan sorumlu Dışişleri Bakan Yardımcısı Daniel Fried, CNN Türk’te Yasemin Çongar’ın sorularını yanıtladı. 5 Şubat 2007, Washington, D.C.

Çongar: Sayın Bakan Fried, iyi günler CNN Türk’e konuk olduğunuz için teşekkür ederiz. Siz Hrant Dink için Washington DC’de St Mary’s kilisesinde yapılan törende hazır bulundunuz. Orada çok güzel bir konuşma yaptınız. Bildiğiniz üzere Dink, 301. Maddeden dolayı geçtiğimiz yıl “Türklüğü aşağılamak” suçundan hüküm giymişti. Bu yaşananlar ışığında, ABD hükümetinin 301. Madde hakkındaki görüşü nedir?

Fried: Ben, Dışişleri Bakanı Gül dahil, 301’inci maddenin değişmesi zamanı geldiğini söyleyen Türklerle hemfikirim. Nihayetinde, Türkiye bir demokrasi. Bu yasa bir anakronizm gibi görünüyor. Başka bir zamanda başka bir ülkeye uygunmuş gibi görünüyor. Üstelik, Türklüğü aşağılayan kim? Hrant Dink mi? Yoksa onu öldüren aptal mı? Hrant Dink, Türklüğü aşağılamadı. O, Türk tarihinin ve kültürünün en iyi yüzünü temsil ediyordu; çok kültürlü geçmişi, kozmopolitan değerleri, muazzam tarihsel derinlik hissini temsil ediyordu. Benim Türkiye’yle özdeşleştirdiğim şeyler bunlardır, ucuz, katil bir milliyetçilik değil. Milliyetçilik küçük halkların ürünüdür, kendine güvenen halkların ürünü değildir. Bence Türkler yüce bir halktır. Yüce bir halkın 301 gibi yasa maddelerine ihtiyacı olmaz. Ama benim ne düşündüğüm önemli değil. Türklerin ne düşündüğü önemli. Ben de, Abdullah Gül gibi Türkiye’nin bugününü ve yarınını temsil eden Türklerle hemfikirim.

Çongar: Bu bağlamda suikastten sonra bir çok yazar, tanınmış romancılar ki, buna Türkiye’nin yegane Nobelli yazarı Orhan Pamuk da dahil, polis koruması altına alındı. İstanbul’dan ayrılmasından kısa bir süre önce, Orhan Pamuk, suikast zanlılarından biri tarafından doğrudan tehdit edildi. Siz de, Amerika’da, yurttaşlık hakları konusunda zorluklar yaşamıştınız; sizde de suikastler yapılmıştı. Türkiye, bu milliyetçi nefretten ve korkudan kurtulmak için ne yapabilir?

Fried: Milliyetçilik Türkiye’nin tekelinde değil. Bütün ülkeler şu ya da bu zamanda bu hastalığa yakalanmıştır. Mesele, Türkiye’de milliyetçiliğin olup olmaması değil, iyi liderlerin bu konuda ne yapacağıdır. Liderlerin daha iyi bir vizyon adına ayağa kalkması gerekiyor. Biz, bunu kendi ülkemizde Yurttaşlık Hakları Hareketi sırasında yaşadık. Siyahıyla beyazıyla büyük liderler ayağa kalkıp “Amerika, bu değil, olamaz” dediler. Zamanla, bir kuşak sonra değiştik; en kötü halimziden en iyi halimize geldik. Bunu yapabilmek, ahlaki liderlik gerektiriyor. Ben, İstanbul’daki cenazede, “Hepimiz Hrant Dink’iz, Hepimiz Ermeniyiz” diyenlere bakınca, bu ahlaki liderliğin Türkiye’de mevcut olduğunu görüyorum. Bu, “Daha iyi bir yol var ve biz onu temsil ediyoruz” demektir. Bu Türklüğe hakaret değildir. Bu yüce bir tavırdır. Bu Türklüğün potansiyeli konusunda harika bir mesajdır.

Çongar: Abdullah Gül o cenazeye katılamadı, ama Ermeni diasporasından ve Erivan’dan bir çok kişiyi davet etti. Bazıları da geldi. Türkiye’deki atmosferi düşününce, Ermenistan ve Türkiye için ilişkilerini normalize etmek mümkün mü? Ankara ve Erivan’a mesajınız nedir?

Fried: Bence bu hem mümkün, hem de şart. Türkiye büyük bir ülke ve Ermenistan’dan çok daha büyük ve güçlü bir ülke. Bence siz onlara el uzatmalısınız. Bu Hrant Dink’in ve onun çabasının ruhuna çok uygun olur. Dink, hem Türk, hem Ermeni olmakta ısrarlıydı. O Türkiye’nin gururlu bir vatandaşı ve Ermeni halkının evladıydı. İkisi arasında tercih yapması gerektiğini söyleyenleri reddediyordu. Bence Türkiye, Hrant Dink’in anısına şimdi Ermenistan’a el uzatmak için sıradışı adımlar atmalı.

Çongar: Bu tartışmanın bir ucu da Türkiye’nin tarihine uzanıyor. Şimdi Kongre’nin önünde Soykırım Tasarısı var. Hükümetinizin bu karara karşı olduğunu biliyorum. Bunu durdurmak için hükümetiniz ne yapmayı planlıyor? Ve Türkiye bu konuda ne yapabilir?

Fried: Bu tartışma daha önce de ortaya çıktı, çıkmaya devam edecek. Ne yazık ki, Hrant Dink’in katli de bu konuda yaraya tuz basacak. Biz, Kongre’ye, bu tasarının, Ermenistan ile Türkiye arasında umduğumuz türden bir uzlaşma sürecini ilerletmeye yaramayacağını anlatacağız. Ortak tarihlerine dikkatle bakmak Ermenistan ve Türkiye’ye kalmış bir şey. Özellikle Türkiye, kendi tarihini sıkıca gözden geçirmeli. Bu tasarı, bu sürece hizmet etmez. Türkiye’nin bu süreci tamamlayabilmek için cesaretlendirilmesi gerekiyor. Peki Türkiye ne yapabilir? Bence, Türkiye’nin ABD Kongresi istediği için, yabancılar için değil ama, kendi iyiliği için, kendi içine iyice bakması ve kendi tarihi konusunda dürüst olması gerekiyor. Ve Ermenistan’a el uzatıp ileriye dönük bir yol önermesi gerekiyor. Türkiye, bu konuda liderlik gösterebilir ve göstereceğini umuyorum.

Çongar: Şimdi de Irak’a geçelim. Geçenlerde General Ralston Mahmur Kampı’nı gezdi. Kampın eninde sonunda kapanmasına yönelik adımlar atılıyor gibi görünüyor. Kamp sakinlerinin geri dönmesi için Türkiye ne yapabilir?

Fried: Türkiye’nin yapabileceği bazı şeyler var. Ve ben (Gül-Rice görüşmesinde) bu konunun gündeme gelmesini bekliyorum. Ama PKK konusunda başarılı bir strateji hem baskı unsurunu, hem de PKK’ya asla değil ama, Kürt nüfusa el uzatma unsurunu içermelidir.

Çongar: Türkiye’deki Kürtlere mi?

Fried: Evet, Türkiye’dekilere, ama aynı zamanda rak Kürt Bölgesel Hükümeti’ne. Onlar, sizin komşunuz olacaklar; dostunuz ve ortağınız da olmalılar. Dolayısıyla, bu ciddi bir strateji gerektiriyor. Ama haklısınız... General Ralston çabalarını yoğunlaştırdı. Ben de, siz bana bunu daha önce sorduğunuzda, size adımlar attığımızı anlatmıştım. Şimdi bunları görüyorsunuz, ve daha fazlasını göreceksiniz.

Çongar: ABD’nin Ulusal İstihbarat Tahmini’ne ilişkin bir soru sormak istiyorum. Irak Tahmini’ne bakınca, ABD istihbarat örgütleri Kerkük’teki riskleri anlıyor gibi görünüyor. “Burası bölgesel bir çatışmanın merkezine dönüşebilir. Kürtler Kerkük’ü tamamen kontrol altına almaya kalkarsa, Türkiye de Irak’a çekilebilir.” ABD Kerkük’ün böyle bir çatışmanın merkezi olmaması için ne yapmayı planlıyor?

Fried: Biz belki federal, ama birleşik bir Irak’ı desteklemek için Irak hükümetiyle, Kürt Bölgesel Hükümeti ile Türk dostlarımızla birlikte çalışmak istiyoruz. (Irak’ta) Petrol gelirinin eşitlikçi biçimde dağıtıldığı tek bir devlet istiyoruz ki, zaten Kerkük meselesi de büyük ölçüde petrolle ilgili. Bu, çok zor koşullarda, çok çaba harcamayı gerektiriyor. Ama Türkiye’nin burada herhangi bir şeyin içine çekilme durumu yok. Türkiye büyük ve güçlü bir ülke. Kendi kararlarını alacaktır ve bu kararlardan sorumlu olmalıdır. Bence Türkiye, Irak’a çok iyi bir komşu olabilir; Irak’ı istikrarsızlaştıracak birşey yapmayacaktır.

Çongar: Sizce (Kerkük’te) referandum ertelenmeli mi?

Fried: Irak Anayasasına saygı duymalıyız. Iraklıların kararlarının ve bu konudaki mücadelerinin sonuca ulaşmasına izin vermeliyiz.

Çongar: Hangi şartlar altında Türkiye’nin bir askeri müdahalesi verimli olabilir?

Fried: Bence askeri müdahaleden söz etmek, verimli bir askeri müdahale yapmaktan çok daha kolay. Bence, Türkiye’nin (Irak’a) girmesi halinde ciddi riskler ortaya çıkar. Umarım, Türkiye ile işbirliği yaparak bu seçeneğin önlenmesini sağlayabiliriz.

Çongar: Zamanınız için teşekkür ederim, sayın Bakan...


The text of the Senate Resolution introduced by Senator Joseph Biden, the Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on February 1, 2007:

Condemning the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist and human rights advocate Hrant Dink and urging the people of Turkey to honor his legacy of tolerance.
Whereas Hrant Dink was a respected, eloquent advocate for press freedom, human rights, and reconciliation;
Whereas, in 1996, Mr. Dink founded the weekly bilingual newspaper Agos and, as the paper's editor in chief, used the paper to provide a voice for Turkey's Armenian community;
Whereas Mr. Dink was a strong proponent of rapprochement between Turks and Armenians and worked diligently to improve relations between those communities;
Whereas Mr. Dink's commitment to democratic values, nonviolence, and freedom in the media earned him widespread recognition and numerous international awards;
Whereas Mr. Dink was prosecuted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for speaking about the Armenian Genocide;
Whereas, notwithstanding hundreds of threats to Mr. Dink's life and safety, he remained a steadfast proponent of pluralism and tolerance;
Whereas Mr. Dink was assassinated outside the offices of Agos in Istanbul, Turkey, on January 19, 2007;
Whereas tens of thousands of people in Turkey of many ethnicities protested Mr. Dink's killing and took to the streets throughout the country to honor his memory;
Whereas the Government of Turkey has pledged to undertake a full investigation into the murder of Mr. Dink;
Whereas the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has stated that when Mr. Dink was shot, “a bullet was fired at freedom of thought and democratic life in Turkey”;
Whereas the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Vartan Oskanian, stated that Mr. Dink “lived his life in the belief that there can be understanding, dialogue and peace amongst peoples”; and
Whereas Mr. Dink's tragic death affirmed the importance of promoting the values that he championed in life: Now, therefore, be it
1 Resolved, That the Senate –
(1) condemns the murder of Hrant Dink as a shameful act of cowardice perpetrated with contempt for law, justice, and decency;
(2) supports the pledge of the Government of Turkey to conduct an exhaustive investigation into the assassination of Mr. Dink and to prosecute those responsible;
(3) urges the Government of Turkey to repeal Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and work diligently to foster a more open intellectual environment in the country that is conducive to the free exchange of ideas;
(4) recognizes the decision of the Government of Turkey to invite senior Armenian religious and political figures to participate in memorial services for Mr. Dink;
(5) calls on the Government of Turkey to act in the interest of regional security and prosperity and reestablish full diplomatic, political, and economic relations with the Government of Armenia; and
(6) urges the people of Turkey to honor Mr. Dink's legacy of tolerance.



Legislation Urges Repeal of Article 301 to Protect Human Rights, Freedom of Speech and Expression

Washington, DC – 29 January 2007 - One week after more than 100,000 mourned slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul, US Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-Queens & the Bronx) introduced legislation (H. Res. 102) in the US House of Representatives condemning the Agos newspaper editor’s assassination, and calling on Turkish authorities to continue investigating the circumstances and fully prosecute those involved in the murder.

“Today, as members of the US House of Representatives, we join the people of Turkey and Armenia in mourning the loss of Hrant Dink, and condemn the senseless murder of an outstanding individual who truly led a courageous life,” Crowley said. “Hrant Dink was a man of conviction and principle who fought for freedom of the press and speech, and for tolerance and understanding. Through his illustrious career as a journalist he tried to bridge the divide between Turkish and Armenian people by fostering a dialogue in the newspaper he founded, Agos.”

Hrant Dink founded the bilingual weekly newspaper Agos in April 1996, to foster a dialogue and encourage understanding between the Turkish-Armenian community and the larger Turkish population. He served as its editor until Jan. 19, 2007, when he was shot dead outside of Agos’ main office in downtown Istanbul. H. Res. 102 is expected to be voted in the House as an up or down vote within the next two weeks.

Journalists and the media community around the world recognized and honored Hrant Dink for his courage and principles, and he was awarded the prestigious Bjornson Prize for Literature for his publications on the Armenian genocide. Hrant Dink’s support for human rights and outspokenness of injustices in Turkey against ethnicArmenians won him notoriety with authorities, who prosecuted and convicted him in court for insulting Turkishness in Turkey under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Congressman Crowley’s resolution also urges the government of Turkey to
repeal this section of Turkish law that prohibits free speech and is used
to silence critics.

Congressman Crowley stated, “We ask that the government of Turkey remove Article 301, which is an outright attack on the fundamental right to freedom of speech. Authorities should do all in their power to stop acts of intolerance, intimidation and violence against individuals who exercise this fundamental right from happening.”


Murder and paranoia in Turkey

January 25, 2007

THERE WAS a huge turnout in Istanbul Tuesday for the funeral of the assassinated journalist Hrant Dink. Mourners held up placards saying, "We are all Armenians" and "We are all Hrant Dink." It was a heartening display of support for values that the slain editor of the bilingual paper Agos defended at the cost of his life: free speech, acknowledgment of the 1915 genocide of Armenians in Turkey, and reconciliation between Turks and the 60,000 Armenians who remain in Turkey.

Encouraging as that affirmation of tolerance and pluralism may be, Dink's murder and his funeral illuminate a dangerous conflict that pervades state and society in Turkey.

Speaking at the slain editor's graveside, the Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II said: "We continue to hope that the Turks will recognize that Armenians are Turkish citizens who have been living on this soil for millennia and are neither foreigners nor potential enemies." What is shocking about this plea for understanding is that it needed to be made. The patriarch's hope for Turkish acceptance of Armenians as full
citizens who can be loyal to Turkey reflects a deeply rooted confusion about something called Turkish identity.

Dink was killed by a 17-year-old who had been given a gun and told to carry out the murder by an ultra nationalist from his home town who had served 10 months in prison for bombing a McDonald's. The assassin told police he had seen something on the Internet alleging that Dink had said, "Turkish blood is dirty." This was an allusion to the Armenian-Turkish editor's conviction under an odious law that makes it a
crime to insult Turkish identity.

For the people who marched in Dink's funeral cortege, there is a clear connection between the nationalist paranoia that produced such a law and the murder of writers and intellectuals who are branded as disloyal. That nationalism has been nourished on political myths that are rooted in the ideology propounded by the founder of the post-Ottoman Turkish state, Kemal Ataturk.

Turkey's military and security services -- what some Turkish liberals call a "deep state" that acts independently of elected governments -- have interpreted Kemalism in a way that defines cultural and linguistic autonomy for Kurds and other minorities as a rebellious challenge to the ideal of Turkishness. The secular ideology derived from Kemalism has been equally intolerant of outward shows of religious piety, prohibiting women and girls from wearing head carves in school.

To gain entry to the European Union, Turkey's political leaders will have to conduct a broad educational campaign, uprooting myths about the mass murder of Armenians and the military's dirty war against the Kurds. Before Turks can take on a new European identity, they will have to redefine what it means to be Turkish.

(c) Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


AJC Calls on Turkey to Ensure Freedom of Expression

January 25, 2007 – New York – The American Jewish Committee is joining in the call for abolition of Turkish legislation, Law 301, which makes it a crime to “insult the Turkish identity.”

We join with our friends in the American Turkish community, as expressed by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, in this effort. Law 301 is widely believed to have created the atmosphere that encouraged those responsible for the murder of Hrant Dink, the Turkish Armenian editor of Agos, who was shot at his Istanbul office last Friday.

AJC condemned the killing of Dink, and sent condolences to his family and those who advocate for the full freedom of expression in Turkey. The outpouring of grief, illustrated by the more than 100,000 mourners who walked with his coffin on Tuesday, sends a strong message to Prime Minister Erdogan and his administration that they should take steps to guarantee the full rights of expression in the media and other public forums.

AJC, the oldest human relations organization in the United States, has long championed Turkey as a secular and democratic state, and is concerned that Dink’s murder will stand as a blot on Turkey’s admirable progress and could hinder the country’s accession to the European Union.

”Abolishing Law 301 will be a significant step to bring Turkey into conformity with the policies of the European Union and Western democracies in guaranteeing the full rights of expression,” said Barry Jacobs, AJC’s director of strategic studies, who had met Dink on several occasions. “It is time for demagogues to stop using the theme of Turkish ‘minorities’ as political slander.”

For further information telephone or email Barry Jacobs at (202) 785-5462; jacobsb@ajc.org


The pigeon sacrificed: Hrant Dink, and a broken dialogue

Vicken Cheterian

23 - 1 - 2007

The assassination of Hrant Dink has destroyed a bridge between Turks and Armenians, says Vicken Cheterian.

The assassination of Hrant Dink in Istanbul on 19 January 2007 has had the effect of a tsunami. Never before has the killing of a journalist caused so much uproar in Turkey. Never before has such an event mobilised so many people; several thousand of them gathering spontaneously on the same day in downtown Istanbul, near the offices of the newspaper Agos where Hrant worked. Several thousand others demonstrated in Ankara, Izmir, and Malatya, the eastern town where Hrant Dink was born in 1954. The journalist's funeral in Istanbul on 23 January was attended by even larger crowds, united in grief and solidarity.

Only thirty-two hours after the murder, Turkish police arrested a teenager, born in 1990, identified as Ogün Samast, a school dropout from the city of Samsun on the Black Sea coast. Samast is reported to have confessed his crime: he had planned the assassination months before because he considered Hrant Dink to have insulted "the Turkish race". "I shot him after saying the Friday prayers. I'm not sorry ... I read news on the internet. He said 'I'm from Turkey but Turkish blood is dirty' and that's why I decided to kill him" (AFP, 21 January 2007).

Freedom's price

Yet, this teenager was not alone in killing Hrant Dink. To the friends of Hrant, there is something bigger involved: the political context in Turkey that created the pressure leading to this tragic death. Orhan Pamuk, Nobel prize winner and a friend of Hrant Dink, had the following to say: "In a sense, we are all responsible for his death. However, at the very forefront of this responsibility are those who still defend Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. Those who campaigned against him, those who portrayed this sibling of ours as an enemy of Turkey, those who painted him as a target, they are the most responsible in this."

Who was Hrant Dink? And who murdered him?

He was a citizen of Turkey of Armenian heritage. He was from a new generation of Armenians who did not fear Turkey, who wanted to live on the land of their ancestors and exercise all their rights, and who wanted to see Turkey a land where human rights and freedoms flourished. He firmly believed in, or hoped for, Turkey's integration into Europe, its values and institutions.

Hrant did not merely talk about freedom of speech, he exercised it. In 1996, he and a group of enthusiasts were instrumental in the creation of Agos, a bilingual weekly in Armenian and Turkish. In only a few years the circulation of Agos increased to 6,000. But its influence carried further; it was the place where Turkish and Armenian intellectuals and journalists met and engaged in dialogue.

Soon, Hrant's exercise of freedom of speech forced him into a clash with Turkey's political system of "official truth". He was brought to trial twice under the infamous Article 301 of Turkish civil code for having "insulted Turkishness". By the time of his assassination a third court case against him for having qualified the repression of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18 by its name: genocide.

A great sympathy and solidarity was expressed in Turkey in the wake of Hrant's death. Many who demonstrated chanted: "We are all Hrant Dink!" or "We are all Armenians!" - slogans reprinted on placards and banners displayed at the writer's funeral. But others saw in this assassination "dark hands" that plot against Turkish national interests.

Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had this to say: "It is very meaningful that the murderers have chosen Dink as their victim this time. We find it very meaningful that this murder has been committed at a time when Armenian claims of genocide were brought to the spotlight especially in some countries." Others have gone further to make the fantastical suggestion that the criminal was ... of Armenian origin. In the mind of some Turkish officials, the victim and the perpetrator have exchanged places.

A distorting mirror

Turkey has a difficulty with its past. For the last nine decades officials in Turkey have faced questions on the fate of its former Armenian community by negating the historical facts. When confronted with the question of genocide, the official Turkish response is threefold:

there was no intention to destroy the entire Armenian nation, only to transfer civilians from war-zones to more "secure" regions (the Syrian desert ...) the numbers of the victims are exaggerated - that it is not 1.5 million Armenians who died, but just a few hundred thousands (official Turkish sources often suggest as few as 300,000) the Armenians deserved it since they collaborated with the enemies of the Ottoman empire.
As Turkey came under increasing foreign pressure and internal questioning about its past, its negation has become increasingly deformed. In the city of Van (once a thriving centre of Armenian culture, and which had a large Armenian population until the genocide), the city museum has a section on genocide. But the bones displayed there - so the official captions explain - are of Turkish victims who were slaughtered by Armenians.

In 1997, the Turkish government erected a huge genocide monument in the town of Igdir, on the border with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran, to commemorate the Turkish victims who, according to the Turkish official narration, were killed by Armenians. The monument is depicted by a sword, directed towards Armenia, under the shadow of Ararat. Again, victim and perpetrator are mistaken, and have exchanged places. After such state-sponsored distortion, how would many young men feel if they are told the truth by a dissident journalist?

A blockade of the mind

This official policy concerns more than Turkey's Armenian minority, which is estimated to number between 60,000-70,000. Turkey has equally difficult relations with its eastern neighbour, Armenia itself. For the last fourteen years, Turkey has refused to open its borders with Armenia, until a solution is found to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

It has also refused to have diplomatic exchanges with Yerevan. The result is that Armenia, a poor and landlocked country, pays a heavy price: experts gathered in Yerevan to discuss Turkish-Armenian relations have estimated this blockade to cost Armenia the equivalent of 10-15% of its GDP. Even more important for Armenians, is that this policy is a constant reminder of a threat: that the past is not over, that relations with Turkey are not normalised.

The killing of Hrant Dink will not silence the questions he posed, nor put an end to the ongoing debate within Turkish society itself. Turkish officials have themselves chosen to seek to join the European Union, and as a consequence they have to face difficult questions, asked both by outsiders and by voices from within Turkish society:

can freedom of speech coexist with the official negation and distortion of Turkey's past?

what is the shortest way to reconciliation?

Hrant Dink was the bridge linking Turkey with Armenia, and the Turkish-Armenian community with Armenians and others abroad. This bridge is now broken. But the presence of Armenian dignitaries at Dink's funeral suggests that it can be rebuilt. The way forward remains clear.

Copyright © Vicken Cheterian, Published by openDemocracy Ltd


Armenia haunts the Turks again

The killing of a prominent Armenian journalist last week further widens the gap between Turkey and Europe.

By Hugh Pope, HUGH POPE is the author of "Sons of the Conquerors: the Rise of the Turkic World." He lives in Istanbul.

January 23, 2007

IS THERE A CURSE hanging over Turkey? Each time the country achieves sustained development, something trips it up. This time it was the assassination on Friday of Hrant Dink, a newspaper editor, peacemaker and one of Turkey's most prominent Armenians.

Turkey is trying to rise to the challenge, as its credibility in talks on membership in the European Union is at stake. Denunciations of the slaying - from the government, from Islamic leaders, from the army - fill the airwaves. Thousands of Turks marched through the streets of Istanbul hours after the editor was shot, shouting, "We are all Armenians! We are all Hrant Dink!"

Police have arrested a suspect who has confessed to pulling the trigger, but no murkiness must remain about the people and the thinking behind the killing. The alleged killer is under 18 and is close to right-wing nationalists. Dink, who was repeatedly threatened by such nationalists, was left unprotected, but not just by the Turkish police. Bad laws, malevolent prosecutions and a growing nationalist hysteria helped create a lynch mob atmosphere.

What killed Dink, in short, is the Turkish republic's inability to deal with the Armenian issue - the charge that its predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire, killed 1.2 million Armenian men, women and children in a genocide that began in 1915.

Official Turkey is stuck in a rut of denial. Discussing the great omissions on the subject in Turkey's public education remains taboo. Efforts to open archives and to "leave it to the historians" lead to dead ends, partly because a scholarly debate won't assuage diaspora Armenians who demand formal acknowledgment of the genocide, and partly because of Turkey's anti-free-speech laws - most notoriously Penal Code Article 301, with its catchall penalties for "denigrating Turkishness."

The Turks have reasons to feel victimized. Christian powers don't apologize much for ethnic cleansing carried out between 1821 and 1923, when they rolled back the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Millions of Muslims were killed. In 1915, World War I was raging. Turkey was again under attack from Russia in the east and Britain and France in the west. The Armenian leadership openly sided with Turkey's enemies, demanded a state on Ottoman land and formed anti-Ottoman militias. Many Turks were killed by these Armenian groups.

Turkey fears an official apology for the Armenian deaths would trigger claims on its land or on seized Armenian assets. Turks cannot believe the sincerity of foreign parliaments which, usually ill-informed about the Turkish case, give in to Armenian diaspora lobbying for genocide declarations. (One such bill looks likely to pass the U.S. Congress in April.) Politics often seems to trump history. Would the French Parliament have made it a crime last year to deny a "genocide" by the Turks if an unrelated desire to keep Turkey out of the European Union had not been prevalent?

Dink didn't take this maximal view of Turkish evil. He once wrote that diaspora Armenians should commit their energy to independent Armenia and not "let hatred of the Turks poison their blood." Idiotically, it was that very column that led to his trial for violating Article 301, on the pretext that he had said Turks were poisonous. The misquote is the motive the assassin has given to police for his act - yet the Turkish media keep recycling this libel. Commentators are subtly shirking responsibility by labeling the murder a "provocation" or blaming "outside forces."

Brave new Turkish novels, films, exhibitions and conferences have tried to reassess the Armenian issue in recent years. But the nationalist upsurge has slowed if not stopped that progress.

Neither Turks nor Armenians should go on like this. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan could try a grand gesture. He might open the border with Armenia, closed since the early 1990s. He could advocate an international conference, where Turkey could argue its case that there was no centralized attempt to wipe out the Armenians. After all, Turkey already officially accepts that 300,000 people died. Best of all, Erdogan could abolish Article 301, which makes intellectuals like Dink a target.

None of this, however, is likely to happen. Turkey has presidential and parliamentary elections this year, and ultranationalists pose the main challenge to Erdogan's centrist, pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Europe - whose support is critical in making a Turkish regime feel safe to reform - seems in no mood to extend lines of political credit to Turkey. Dink was a rare Armenian ready to compromise with Turkey, and his assassination will deter replacements.

So the gap between Turkey and Europe will widen again. Muddled thinking and inward-looking nationalism will continue to plague Turkey, and not only in its approach to the Armenian problem. After all, Dink's death is the symptom of negative currents that persist, not their cause. And that, of course, is why Turkey's curse keeps returning to strike with such tragic ease.


Hrant Dink (1954-2007)


[posted online on January 22, 2007]

Hrant Dink, the courageous editor of the Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, was murdered in the middle of the day on Friday, January 19, on a city street in front of his office in Istanbul, by a 17-year-old man he had never met. Shot three times in the nape of the neck, he lay face down on the sidewalk, the blood pooling under him. His killer fled, brandishing his pistol and shouting, "I have killed an Armenian!" Dink was not killed for any deed or personal grudge but for who he was and for his words--words that were thought by nationalist Turks and right-wing opponents to be a threat to the Turkish state and to "Turkishness." He was 52 years old, a man of enormous energy and passion, someone who embraced those who met him, enveloping them both physically and with his charm and charisma. The circles of his admirers extended far beyond the small, beleaguered community of Turkish Armenians.
Thousands gathered in Istanbul's central square, Taksim, in the hours after his killing and chanted, "We are all Armenians! We are all Hrant Dink!" For those who loved him or were moved by his words, it is impossible to believe he is dead.
Whatever the immediate motives of the young assassin from Trebizond to stop Dink's pen, Dink knew that he was extraordinarily vulnerable in the corrosive political atmosphere gathering in Turkey, an atmosphere enflamed by state prosecutions of dissident voices and nationalist media. "My computer's memory," he wrote in his last editorial, "is loaded with sentences full of hatred and threats. I am just like a pigeon.... I look around to my left and right, in front and behind me." Like novelist Elif Shafak and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, both of whom have raised the issue of the genocidal deportations and massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire, so Dink had been brought before Turkish courts and accused under the infamous Article 301 of "insulting Turkishness." And like the others he had not been jailed but given a suspended sentence, a gesture signaling that the Turkish state was still wavering between adopting the legal norms of Europe and turning its back on the invitation to join the European Union.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials from the government condemned the murder, and the culprit--Ogun Samast--was quickly apprehended. But in statements from the authorities some of the blame was placed on those outside Turkey who have brought forth parliamentary resolutions, as in France recently, to recognize the events of 1915 officially as a genocide. For eleven years Dink had edited Agos, a small-circulation newspaper, and though it had but 6,000 subscribers, its resonance was like a bell in a quiet night. In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists in February 2006, he remarked, "The prosecutions are not a surprise for me. They want to teach me a lesson because I am Armenian. They try to keep me quiet." When asked who "they" are, he answered as many in the Turkish opposition answer: "the deep state in Turkey," referring to the dark forces within the military and power ministries, as well as nationalist elements, to which even the mildly Islamist Erdogan government must defer.
The paradox of Dink's death is that he was killed in the name of a particularly narrow notion of patriotism while he was himself a fervent Turkish patriot. His vision of his native country was of a modern democratic, tolerant state on the eastern edge of Europe, in which his own people, the Armenians, could live with Turks, Kurds, Jews, Greeks and the other peoples who had coexisted, however uneasily, in the cosmopolitan empire out of which the Turkish Republic had emerged. What he could not tolerate was the denial of the shared history of those peoples, a history that involved mass killing of Armenians and more recent repression of Kurds. Dink was an active participant in the vital civil society in Turkey, key members of which have taken up the question of the Armenian genocide as an opening wedge to investigate the blank spots of Turkey's past. He participated in international meetings that included Armenian and Turkish scholars exploring the causes and consequences of the policies of the Young Turk government during World War I. Last year he spoke at a Turkish academic conference on this theme at Istanbul's Bilgi University, a breakthrough meeting that clearly frightened those nationalists who want to bury the inconvenient past.
While he was vitally interested in setting the record straight on 1915, Dink was more interested in the movement for Turkish democracy than in international recognition of the Armenian massacres as a genocide. Democracy in Turkey, he believed, would easily settle that historical matter. For some Armenians in the diaspora who know Turks far less well than their compatriots who live in Turkey, Dink's lack of fanaticism on this issue made him suspect, though his outspokenness in the face of official sanction gave him a heroic aura. Last year the Norwegians awarded him the Bjornson Academy Prize for protection of freedom of expression. In his speech at Bilgi University last year, he told the largely Turkish audience, "We want this land; not to take it away but to lie under it!"


USCIRF Calls for Thorough Investigation into Journalist's Killing

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom condemns the killing in Istanbul on Friday of Mr. Hrant Dink, a well-known journalist and editor whom the Commission met on its recent visit to Turkey. The Commission extends its sincere condolences to Mr. Dink's family.

"The Commission is profoundly saddened by the news of Mr. Dink's murder," said Felice D. Gaer, chair of the Commission. "Mr. Dink was a courageous journalist who fought for and defended freedom of expression in his country. We commend the swift and unequivocal statement of Prime Minister Erdogan denouncing this horrendous act and vowing to pursue the person or persons responsible. We urge that the investigation be thorough, transparent, and credible."

Mr. Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian ethnicity, had been convicted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code of insulting the Turkish state, because of his use of the term "Armenian genocide" in his public remarks and written publications. His conviction was converted to a suspended sentence following European Union and other international pressure. Dink wrote in one of his newspaper columns that he had received anonymous death threats. He told members of the commission on their recent visit to Turkey that he continued to receive numerous death threats in the face of his discussion of issues of religious and political freedom considered by the
Turkish state to be controversial.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.

Visit our Web site at www.uscirf.gov

202-523-5020 (FAX)


Turkey: Outspoken Turkish-Armenian Journalist Murdered

Prosecutions for Speech Created Hostile Environment for Media

(New York, January 20, 2007) – The Turkish government should fully investigate the murder of the influential and outspoken Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, Human Rights Watch said today. Dink, a commentator and critic of Turkey’s human rights record and the slow progress of its reform efforts, was the editor of Agos (Furrow), a bilingual Turkish- and Armenian-language newspaper.

Dink was best known for his writing and public statements about the massacres of Armenians in southern Anatolia at the end of the Ottoman Empire, which remains one of the most controversial and emotionally charged issues in Turkey today. Dink had faced prosecution for his views and had reportedly also received death threats.

“We are deeply saddened by Hrant Dink’s murder,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Dink’s killing robs Turkey of an important voice of conscience on the need for Turkey to come to terms with its past.”

Dink had been prosecuted three times for his statements under article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for “insulting Turkishness.” Most recently, in July 2006, the Supreme Court upheld a six-month prison sentence against Dink under article 301 for an editorial concerning the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Anatolia. The sentence was suspended, but other speech-related charges were still pending against him at the time of his death.

Turkey continues to prosecute and convict individuals who peacefully exercise their right to free expression. In 2006 alone, more than 50 individuals were indicted for statements or speeches that questioned state policy on controversial topics such as religion, ethnicity, and the role of the army. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called for the repeal of article 301, as well as other legislation that is used to restrict free expression in Turkey.

These repeated prosecutions, as well as growing political tensions in Turkey in the lead-up to 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections, have created an environment of intolerance and hostility, which increases the risk that such violent attacks will occur.

Human Rights Watch called on the Turkish government to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of Hrant Dink and to hold accountable those involved in the murder. Human Rights Watch also again called on the Turkish government to abolish article 301 and to drop all charges against journalists, writers, and editors like Dink who face prosecution for their peaceful expression.


PEN Alarmed by Murder of Armenian-Turkish Journalist

New York, NY, January 19, 2007—PEN, the international association of writers, is appalled by the news of the murder today of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

“We are horrified,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “Hrant Dink was one of the heroes of the nonviolent movement for freedom of expression in Turkey—a movement in which writers, editors, and publishers have practiced civil disobedience by defying laws that censored or suppressed important truths in that country. Theirs is one of the most significant human rights movements of our time. Hrant Dink’s countrymen can help cement some of the gains he helped win for them by sending a strong, unified message that those responsible must be brought to justice for his murder.”

Dink, one of the most prominent ethnic Armenians in Turkey, was editor-in-chief of the Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper Agos, a paper that seeks to provide a voice to the Armenian community and create a dialogue between Turks and Armenians. He was also a well-known commentator on Armenian affairs. In July 2006, Dink was handed a six-month suspended sentence for insulting Turkishness after writing an article which called for Armenians to “now turn their attention to the new life offered by an independent Armenia.” A week later, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor opened a new case against Dink for referring to the 1915 massacre of Armenians as a "genocide" during a July 14 interview with Reuters. Dink was awaiting his next trial for these charges at the time of his death.

Just before his assassination, Dink had complained of death threats he was receiving from nationalists. Early reports note that Dink was shot four times by a young man who appeared to be 18 or 19 years old. Police in riot gear surrounded Dink's office in downtown Istanbul. Forensic teams were combing the pavement outside for clues to the murder.

During the past 24 months, PEN has followed over 60 cases of writers, journalists, and publishers who were brought before courts or faced prosecution for their writings. Around 15 of these are currently facing charges similar to those levied against Hrant Dink. Some recent notable cases include that of Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel laureate charged with insulting Turkishness for a comment published in a Swiss newspaper in 2005 in which he was quoted as saying that “thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it,” Turkish prosecutors later decided not to proceed with a court case against him; five journalists who were accused of “interfering” with the judiciary for their comments on attempts to ban a conference; and publisher Abdullah Yilmaz, who faces trial for issuing a Turkish edition of Greek writer Mara Meimaridi’s novel The Witches of Smyrna. Scenes in that book describing parts of the Turkish quarter of Izmir as dirty have triggered charges of “denigrating Turkish national identity.”

Jiri Grusa, International President of International PEN, the world association of writers, called the murder “a symptom of old hatreds that threaten the relationship of all Turkish people to the democratic values shared in Europe and the world.” PEN calls upon the Turkish government to do all in its power to apprehend Dink’s killer.
For more information, contact: Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org


Amnesty International Condemns Murder of Hrant Dink

Amnesty International deplores the murder today of the prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The organization believes that he was targeted because of his work as a journalist who championed freedom of expression.

"This horrifying assassination silences one of Turkey's bravest human rights defenders," said Maureen Greenwood-Basken, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia. "Writers put their lives on the line when they cover human rights violations, as the cases of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and now Hrant Dink, brutally illustrate.

"But legitimate debate about ideas must be protected. The Turkish government must redouble its efforts to protect human rights defenders and open its political climate to a range of views. Recent legal reforms have brought many areas of Turkish law in line with international human rights standards, but existing limitations on free speech such as Article 301 must be repealed.

"The U.S. government, as one of Turkey's closest allies, should push for a full and transparent investigation into Dink's murder."

AIUSA is a longstanding advocate of freedom of speech in Turkey and around the world. In an online action in October 2006, AIUSA activists sent thousands of messages urging repeal of Article 301.

Dink, editor of the newspaper Agos and contributor to the influential daily Zaman, was reportedly shot three times today in Istanbul outside the Agos offices. He was 53. Dink was a passionate promoter of the universality of human rights who appeared on different platforms with human rights activists, journalists and intellectuals across the political spectrum. Best known for his willingness to debate openly and critically issues of Armenian identity and official versions of history in Turkey relating to the massacres of Armenians in 1915, Dink also wrote widely on issues of democratization and human rights.

"In Turkey there are still a number of harsh laws which endorse the suppression of freedom of speech," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia programme director at Amnesty International. "These laws, coupled with the persisting official statements by senior government, state and military officials condemning critical debate and dissenting opinion, create an atmosphere in which violent attacks can take place."

Last year, Dink was prosecuted for the third time on charges of "denigrating Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Amnesty International called for the repeal of that law and condemned his prosecution as part of a pattern of judicial harassment against him for peacefully expressing his dissenting opinion. Dink had already been given a six-month suspended prison sentence in July 2006 following an October 2005 conviction on charges of "denigrating Turkishness."

Amnesty International calls on the Turkish authorities to condemn all forms of intolerance, to uphold the rights of all citizens of the Turkish Republic and to investigate Dink's murder thoroughly and impartially, to make the findings of the investigation public and to bring suspected perpetrators to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards.


The long shadow

Monday, January 22, 2007

The prominent journalist and voice of Turkey's dwindling Armenian minority, Hrant Dink, was shot dead on Jan. 19 as he left his office in Istanbul. Dink was editor of Agos, the sole Armenian newspaper in Turkey. He had been prosecuted because of his call for recognition of Ottoman Turkey's 1915 massacre of 1.5 million of its ethnic Armenian citizens -- a crime against humanity that the Canadian House of Commons formally acknowledged in April, 2004. His murder starkly demonstrates how Turkish denial of this abomination, the first genocide of the 20th century, amounts to continuing violence against multi-ethnic democracy and pluralism. It is a painful reminder that without redemption for past injustices, the ghosts of history will cast a long shadow on Turkey's future.

Mr. Dink was convicted in October, 2005, of the crime of "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. In being branded as a criminal for calling attention to the 1915 genocide, he joined the ranks of prominent fellow ethnic Turkish citizens, including the famous novelist Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, the renowned intellectual Murat Belge, who organized a conference on the Armenian genocide in 2005, and the courageous historian Taner Akcam, author of A Shameful Act which details Turkish responsibility for the events of 1915. These eminent Turks would argue that the greatest insult to "Turkishness" is the continuing denial of this historical tragedy, which brutally ripped Turkey's multiethnic fibre apart, and that the greatest disgrace is the appeasement of ethnic chauvinists who seek to destroy its modest but precious remnants. The truth that Mr. Dink and his fellow citizens upheld transcends ties of blood and soil. This was
poignantly expressed at the candlelight vigil after his murder, where hundreds of Turks held signs reading: "We are all Hrant Dink. We are all Armenians."

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, condemned Mr. Dink's murder as a "bullet aimed at free speech." But so long as Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalizes "insulting Turkishness," these remain empty words. Limitations on freedom of speech should apply to hate speech, not to speech against hate. Recognition of past injustice promotes mutual respect and redeems a shared humanity. But its denial sows the seeds of hatred, by perpetuating both the dehumanization of its victims and the moral depravity of its perpetrators. In a world where Holocaust denial is a crime, state-sanctioned denial of genocide is all the more reproachable. It is telling that when the House of Commons recognized the Armenian genocide in 2004, Turkey condemned "narrow minded Canadian politicians" who failed to understand that their decision "will awaken feelings of hatred among people of different [ethnic] roots and disturb social harmony." The murder of Mr. Dink should leave no doubt that social harmony is not achieved through appeasement of ethnic chauvinists.

Mr. Dink's last op-ed, written on Jan. 10, a few days prior to his murder, is a testament to his nobility and heroism. He speaks of death threats against him, but he fears for his family and not for himself. And despite his ordeal, he speaks of his abiding commitment to Turkey and its people: "There were moments when I seriously thought about leaving the country and moving far away. And especially
when the threats started to involve those close to me." But to stay in Turkey "was necessary because we truly desired it and [had to do so] out of respect to the thousands of friends in Turkey [who] struggled for democracy and who supported us. We were going to stay and we were going to resist." In an allusion to the recurring trauma of collective destruction and exile, he reveals how strongly he was
clinging to his beloved home: "If we were forced to leave one day, however? We were going to set out just as in 1915? Like our ancestors ?Without knowing where we were going? Walking the roads they walked through ? Feeling the ordeal, experiencing the pain? With such a reproach we were going to leave our homeland. And we would go where our feet took us, but not our hearts." It is in light of this vivid memory of 1915 that the magnitude of his murder becomes apparent, almost as if thoseunspeakable events have continued unabated to the present day.

In his last days, Mr. Dink wrote that he felt the "unease of a pigeon" that must constantly live in fear of being preyed upon. But in an expression of unfailing hope and trust in his fellow Turkish citizens, he remained confident that "in this country people do not touch pigeons. Pigeons live their lives all the way deep into the city, even amidst the human throngs. Yes, somewhat apprehensive but just as much free." Yet, it was in the busy streets of Istanbul, amidst the human throngs, that he was shot to death. At least if this shocking betrayal awakens the Turkish people to the paramount necessity of atonement for the past, Mr. Dink's confidence in his
fellow citizens may still be vindicated, and the restless ghosts of Ottoman times may finally repose in their sepulchers.

- Payam Akhavan is a professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal and a former UN war crimes prosecutor at The Hague.

© National Post 2007


A journalist's dangerous mission

January 20, 2007

THE LAST TIME I met Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was murdered in Istanbul yesterday, I felt a sudden need to do more than just exchange pleasantries. This was several months ago, and we were sampling one of Turkey's great delights, dinner aboard a boat cruising the Bosphorus. Life for Dink, however, had become less than delightful. He was being fiercely denounced by the ultra nationalist press, and seemed subdued and preoccupied.

I pulled him aside and told him how important his work was, how much support he had in Turkey and beyond, and what a journalistic hero he had become. "I understand," he
replied simply. "I do not stop."

Dink was in the forefront of a growing number of Turks who want their government to admit that leaders of the crumbling Ottoman Empire directed a mass slaughter of Armenians in 1915. These are the same Turks who want their country to break away from its authoritarian past and complete its march toward full democracy.

Some Turkish nationalists, however, feel deeply threatened by their country's progress toward modernity. During the 1980s, they gunned down the country's leading journalists. In the 1990s they concentrated their fire on Kurdish nationalists, hundreds of whom were killed by death squads that acted with absolute impunity.

In recent years, many Turks had allowed themselves to believe those bad days were over. But with an election campaign approaching, nationalist rhetoric is again surfacing in political speeches and militant newspapers. Much of it contains ugly insinuations that Armenians, Kurds, and members of other minority groups threaten Turkey's national unity and its very survival.

Rare is the government official or military officer who condemns this rhetoric. Some not only encourage it but protect accused killers from prosecution. That has
emboldened radicals and led them to believe that the state tacitly supports them.

By their silence, and by failing to condemn attacks like a bombing evidently staged by army officers in the Kurdish town of Semdinli 14 months ago, Turkish political
leaders and military commanders helped set the stage for yesterday's murder. In his weekly newspaper, Agos, which was published in both Turkish and Armenian, Dink wrote as he pleased, refusing to observe unwritten taboos that shackle the Turkish press. He was charged several times with the Orwellian crime of "insulting Turkishness." On one occasion he was convicted, although his six-month sentence was suspended. Each time he appeared in court, a crowd of ultra nationalists staged a violent scene, showering him with abuse and trying to assault him.

This was the same gang that screamed insults at the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk when he was brought to trial last year. Dink attended Pamuk's trial in a show of solidarity, driving the militants to new heights of fury.

Turkish nationalists believed they won a great victory when, at the end of last year, the European Union suspended talks aimed at making Turkey an EU member. They still hope to turn back the democratic tide that is engulfing their country. Some apparently believe that if they cannot do it by indicting free thinkers, they can do it through murder. This attack has generated revulsion across Turkey. It will undoubtedly galvanize the country's large and increasingly bold corps of human rights advocates.

Their first step may be to intensify their campaign for repeal of the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which places a series of restrictions on free press. To achieve that, and to finish reshaping Turkey's political system, will not be easy. Turkey is being torn by an epochal crisis of identity. The old and oppressive political tradition is dying, but its death throes are becoming disturbingly violent.

Political leaders, and their colleagues in uniform, seem to believe they can tolerate and even make use of ultranationalist ideologues. Yesterday's murder shows how dangerous that course is. Reports from Istanbul suggest that the man who committed the murder was very young, perhaps a teenager. His arrest will not calm outraged Turks. Their anger is directed not simply against the man who pulled the trigger, but also against those who created the venomous climate that made this crime possible.

Turkey's violent ultra nationalist fringe, long supported by elements in the police and military, aims not only to kill journalists but also to stop the progress of Turkish history. No government has tried seriously to crush it. Yesterday's murder, and the wave of anger it has set off, gives Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a chance to do so.

Stephen Kinzer is a former chief of the New York Times bureau in Istanbul and author of "Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds."


Washington, DC – 19 January 2007 - The Armenian Assembly of America was shocked and appalled to learn of the tragic murder of one of the most prominent Armenian voices in Turkey, Hrant Dink, who was gunned down outside his newspaper office in Istanbul, Turkey, in what was a blatant political assassination. Dink was frequently and unfairly targeted by Turkish nationalists who labeled him a “traitor” for his public statements on the Armenian Genocide.
The Assembly condemns the Turkish authorities for their failure to provide a safer political environment for Armenians in Turkey, despite repeated calls from the United States, the European Union and human rights groups urging Ankara to improve conditions for minorities in the country. Turkey is currently home to some 60,000 Armenians.
The Assembly also remains deeply troubled by Ankara’s refusal to heed international calls to abolish Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which stifles freedom of speech and criminalizes public discussion of the Armenian Genocide. Hrant Dink himself stood trial several times for his public comments on the genocide and was convicted in October 2006 for “insulting Turkishness” under the much-criticized law. He received a six-month suspended sentence and was set to appear in court again in March 2007 for telling a foreign journalist that the events of 1915 constituted genocide.
When prosecutors in Istanbul announced the new “denigration” charges, Amnesty International expressed dismay, saying “the organization considers that this prosecution is part of an emerging pattern of harassment against the journalist exercising his right to freedom of expression – a right which Turkey, as a State Party to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has a legal obligation to uphold.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “in the last 15 years, 18 other Turkish journalists have been killed for their work, making [Turkey] the eighth deadliest country in the world for journalists.” CPJ research further shows that “journalists, academic, and others have been subjected to pervasive legal harassment for statements that allegedly insult the Turkish identity.”
“It is past time for Turkey to reform its laws and take serious steps to protect the rights of all its citizens,” said Assembly Board of Trustees Chairman Hirair Hovnanian. “No other human being in Turkey should have to pay the price with his life for his government’s lack of resolve to uphold the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
The Armenian Assembly also calls on the United States, as a world leader, to end the vicious cycle of genocide denial in Turkey by adopting a congressional resolution reaffirming this fact of world history.
Bryan Ardouny, Executive Director of the Armenian Assembly, said that “sadly 92 years after the start of the Armenian Genocide, Hrant Dink is now the latest victim of Turkey’s outrageous campaign of denial and intolerance.”
“In light of this terrible tragedy, it is all the more inappropriate for the Administration to oppose congressional reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide,” added Hovnanian.
“In memory of Hrant Dink, we reaffirm our commitment to fight for universal reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide,” Hovnanian continued.
The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. It is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt membership organization.
Editor’s Note: For more information, please see the fact sheet below provided by the Armenian National Institute.
Hrant Dink
Hrant Dink was one of the most prominent figures of the Armenian community in Turkey. In 1996 Dink founded a newspaper called Agos in order to reach the Turkish-speaking members of the Armenian community. He served as the newspaper’s editor in chief.
On October 7, 2005, Hrant Dink was given a six-month suspended prison sentence after a trial in Shishli Second Criminal Court. He was prosecuted under Article 301 of the new Turkish criminal code which makes criticism of “Turkish national identity” a criminal offense. The Turkish criminal code was adopted as part of Turkey’s EU accession requirement. Hrant Dink appealed the court’s verdict and the suspended sentence and is seeking an acquittal.
On February 24, 2006, the prosecutor’s office at the Appeals Court found fault with the lower court’s decision and ordered a new trial.
On May 1, 2006, despite the prosecutor’s recommendation to overrule the lower court, the Court of Appeals in Istanbul (Supreme Court of Appeals Ninth Bureau) turned down the appeal, thereby upholding the lower court’s verdict.
On May 16, 2006, Dink was in court again to face a new charge of “attempting to influence the judiciary,” which carries a possible sentence of up to three years. Charges were also filed against three other Agos associates, including Serkis Seropyan the publisher of Agos, Aydin Engin a Turkish journalist, and Arat Dink, the son of Hrant Dink. The trial began on July 4, but due to a courtroom melee was adjourned until December. A second indictment under article 301 was filed against Dink in September.
In the meantime, on June 6, 2006, the Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor’s Office, the highest prosecutor’s office in Turkey, argued that Dink had not committed any crime and that the Court of Appeals annulment of the suspension was wrong.
Hrant Dink was assassinated on January 19, 2007, in front of the office of the Agos newspaper in Istanbul, Turkey. He was born in Malatya, Turkey, on September 15, 1954.
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Amnesty International issued the following statement on September 26, 2006.
Turkey: Journalist targeted yet again
Amnesty International is dismayed at today’s news that yet another case has been opened against journalist Hrant Dink on charges of “denigrating Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The organization considers that this prosecution is part of an emerging pattern of harassment against the journalist exercising his right to freedom of expression -- a right which Turkey, as a State Party to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has a legal obligation to uphold.
The latest charge against Hrant Dink was brought following a statement he made to Reuters news agency, in which he reportedly said of massacres of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire, “Of course I’m saying it’s a genocide, because its consequences show it to be true and label it so. We see that people who had lived on this soil for 4000 years were exterminated by these events.” Amnesty International is particularly concerned at this latest prosecution, the third against Hrant Dink on charges under Article 301, because it seems to constitute a pattern of judicial harassment against the writer for peacefully expressing his dissenting opinion. Furthermore, he has already been given a six-month suspended prison sentence following an October 2005 conviction on charges of “denigrating Turkishness” (upheld by the Court of Appeal in July 2006), and therefore if found guilty again on the same charge would be imprisoned. Should he be, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience.
Amnesty International considers this latest prosecution to be particularly disappointing following the welcome acquittal four days ago of another writer, novelist Elif Safak, on charges under Article 301 relating to statements made by characters in her novel The Bastard of Istanbul. The organization had seen this as a positive step for freedom of expression in Turkey but fears this acquittal may prove to be the exception rather than the rule and demonstrates yet again the failure of certain members of the Turkish judiciary and prosecution to internalize international law, as required by Article 90 of the Turkish constitution. The organization reiterates its call for Article 301 to be abolished in its entirety, thereby putting an end to arbitrary implementation of this ill-defined law.
Finally, Amnesty International notes that this prosecution reportedly arises from a complaint lodged by elements of civil society opposed to the abolition of Article 301, who have lodged similar complaints in the past seeking to secure such prosecutions and who have repeatedly staged provocative and sometimes violent protests at trials, creating a threatening atmosphere in the courtroom. The organization calls on the Turkish authorities to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to ensure the protection both of the defendants, their lawyers and supporters in such cases, and of the course of justice itself.
For further information about Amnesty International’s concerns regarding Article 301 please see Turkey: Article 301: How the law on “denigrating Turkishness” is an insult to free expression (AI Index: EUR 44/003/2006).
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