ANKARA: Campaigning For Hrant Dink Street


Feb 24 2010

This file photo shows people laying flowers on the spot where Hrant
Dink was gunned down in central Istanbul. Hurriyet photo An online
petition to change a street name in Istanbul to Hrant Dink Street –
after the murdered Armenian-Turkish journalist – has been signed by
nearly 2,000 people, but the city has twice rejected the request.

The campaigners say the people’s support is more important than
the municipality’s objections and are focusing on gathering more
signatures and support. The number of signatures on the petition’s
Web site, (Hrant Dink Avenue), reached 1,800
as of Wednesday, including many prominent intellectuals such as Zulfu
Livaneli, Arif Sag and Tuncel Kurtiz.

People working on the campaign, titled "Art for Peace," replaced
the sign for Ergenekon Avenue in Istanbul’s KurtuluÅ~_ neighborhood
with a sign reading Hrant Dink Avenue on Jan. 19, minutes after the
commemoration of Dink’s murder in KurtuluÅ~_ in the Å~^iÅ~_li district.

"Changing the name of Ergenekon Avenue has a symbolic meaning for us,"
Ragıp İncesagır, spokesperson for the Art for Peace initiative,
told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Ergenekon is the name of a mountain in Central Asia in a Turkish legend
that symbolizes Turks leaving Asia and moving to Anatolia. It is also
the name of a recent case against a suspected gang that allegedly
aimed to topple the ruling government.

"Ergenekon has always been a symbolic name that says, ‘Everyone here
is a Turk and others can only live on streets named by Turks,’" said
İncesagır, adding that this policy is not only against Armenians
in Turkey but also against Alevis, a sect of Islam, and Kurds.

The campaigners also see a connection between the Ergenekon case and
Dink’s murder.

Feryal Oney, a soloist for the KardeÅ~_ Turkuler music group and
one of the campaigners, told the Daily News that, like many others,
she also believes the Ergenekon gang was involved in Dink’s murder.

"It might be right to change the street’s name through official
channels, but if we cannot achieved this, then we will continue
our campaign to raise awareness in society," İncesagır said. "We
believe that society should start making peace by changing the names
of these streets."

Municipal rejections

Å~^iÅ~_li Municipality first applied to the Istanbul Metropolitan
Municipality to change the name of Å~^afak Street to Hrant Dink Street.

Å~^afak Street is symbolic because it is near the building of the
Armenian- and Turkish-language daily Agos. Dink was editor in chief
of Agos and the street is where he was shot dead on Jan. 19, 2007.

Istanbul rejected Å~^iÅ~_li’s request without discussing it in its
council on the grounds that name changes for streets cause chaos in
emergencies and extra work for institutions and companies located on
that street.

Tayyibe Ulgen, an official from Istanbul Municipality’s map department,
told the Daily News that according to a notice sent by the Prime
Ministry, they only name streets that do not have names, or when a
street is divided into two. "By procedure, we did not accept the name
change," said Ulgen.

Alis Nalcı, editor for daily Agos, told the Daily News that after a
2007 change of law on municipalities, a local municipality, Å~^iÅ~_li
Municipality in this case, can change the name of a street without
approval of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. "The name of a
street in the Bakırköy district was changed to Dadyan under the new
regulation. When Istanbul rejects a local municipality’s request to
change a name three times, the decision to change the name falls to
the local municipality under the new law," said Nalcı.

Aziz Ozhan, press coordinator for Å~^iÅ~_li Municipality, said
Å~^iÅ~_li does not have any further attempts to change the street
name on its agenda at the moment.

The second application for Hrant Dink Ave. to Istanbul Metropolitan
Municipality was filed by municipal council member Ozgen Nama from
the Republican People’s Party, or CHP. He brought the request to
change Ergenekon Ave. to Hrant Dink Ave. onto the council’s agenda,
but it was rejected on Feb. 9.

According to Oney, many names in the area had been changed from
innocent to militaristic over the years. In 1923, the name of the
neighborhood was changed from Tatavla (a Greek name) to KurtuluÅ~_
(Liberation). Feriköy Hamam Street (hamam means Turkish bath) changed
to Ergenekon. "Other street names are nationalistic, such as Bozkurt [a
symbol for Turks in central Asia] and Baruthane [gunpowder factory],"
said Oney.

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