Hopes for reconciliation fade following funeral of slain Turkish journalist
By SELCAN HACAOGLU, Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press
January 25, 2007 Thursday 6:54 PM GMT
As mourners streamed through the streets this week to honor slain
ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, many liberal Turks were swept
up in a sense that an unprecedented chance for ethnic and political
reconciliation was at hand.
But a darker reality already has set in: Many Turks are rejecting
the appeals for solidarity and democratic reform.
They say the tens of thousands who joined Dink’s funeral procession
in Istanbul on Tuesday were mainly urban intellectuals, hardly
representative of a nation of more than 70 million people where
conservative Islamic values are deep-seated and nationalist pride in
"Turkishness" is strong.
Many support the views of nationalists who are becoming increasingly
strident in their condemnation of Western values that they feel are
being imposed on them by the European Union, which is considering
Turkey’s membership bid.
Dink had been forced to stand trial by nationalists angered by his
calls to recognize the killings of Armenians in the waning days of
the Ottoman Empire as genocide. He was shot down Friday, allegedly
by a teenager who incited to the crime by four ultrarightists also
charged in the case.
During his funeral procession, mourners chanted "We are all Armenians,"
urged liberal reform and called for the repeal of the law used to
convict Dink on charges of "insulting Turkishness."
The pleas fell on deaf ears, with most Turks interviewed by The
Associated Press on Thursday voicing opposition to making concessions
to Armenians on the sensitive issue of the killings.
"They should speak for themselves, they cannot speak on behalf of
Turks," Filiz Un, 32, said of the marchers honoring Dink. "I am sorry
for him as a human, but they cannot pretend that all the Turkish
public is behind them."
A headline in the right-wing newspaper Tercuman said anyone who isn’t
proud to be Turkish "should clear off and leave."
Turkey’s largest nationalist party responded to the mourners’ chants
by posting its own slogan "We are all Turks" on a digital display
outside a local party branch in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
And in a chilling sign that the suspects in Dink’s killing have
their supporters, a fake bomb was left outside the Turkish parliament
building Thursday saying they should be set free, private CNN-Turk
That came a day after one of the men charged in the slaying issued
a threat against Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel literature
prize-winner who also has been charged with insulting Turkey.
The defiant tone from nationalists alarmed mainstream politicians.
"You don’t recognize any laws, you go and kill defenseless people?
That’s not nationalism," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
"If you do that, you are murderers and monsters. No one but God can
take a life."
Turkey’s expulsion of ethnic Armenians during World War I which
Armenians say claimed 1.5 million lives is a dark chapter rarely
discussed publicly in Turkey or taught in its schools.
Turkey vehemently denies that many died or that it was genocide, saying
the bloodshed came during the chaos of a disintegrating empire. It is
battling Armenian diaspora groups that are pushing European governments
and the United States to declare the killings genocide.
"There is a fault line passing right through the middle of society,"
wrote Turker Alkan, a columnist for the center-left newspaper Radikal.
"Those who cannot reconcile Hrant Dink’s murder with humanity,
consciousness and moral values are on the one side; those who don’t
really oppose the murder because of their nationalist sentiments and
their religious beliefs are on the other," he added.
Selami Ince, news editor of the Istanbul-based Su TV, run by the
Alawite Muslim sect, answered by saying few of the funeral marchers
were Turks with roots in the Anatolian heartland.
"Unfortunately, they do not represent the Turkish public," Ince said.
"The Turkish public has not filled the streets with demands of
democracy and freedom. They were leftists, Armenians, Kurds and those
intellectuals who favor multiculturalism."
Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this