The Doves Are No Longer Safe in Turkey


Editorial  CartoonBy Edmond Y. Azadian

Hrant Dink, the courageous journalist who believed that he could promote democracy in Turkey by getting the people to face the dark history of that country, was assassinated on January 19, 2007 in front of the editorial offices of Agos, the bilingual weekly which he had founded with the hope of engaging Turks and Armenians in a cathartic dialogue.

He used to believe that Armenians in Istanbul lead a very isolated life and that if those in Turkey knew the Armenians better, all prejudices would vanish.

By the same token, by exposing facts about the Armenian Genocide, he believed that he was not only serving a historic truth, but that he was also promoting human rights to cleanse Turkey of its grisly past, and pave the way for democracy.

In view of his bold statements about Turkey’s human rights abuses and denial of the Armenian Genocide, people were always worried about his security. He, however, always comforted them, believing that Turkish society was changing and maturing. He also believed that he was living like a dove and people always protected doves. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

In the process of the investigation of Dink’s murder, a document dating back to 1997 has surfaced labeled “confidential.” In addition to Dink’s name, the name of the then-vicar of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, Mesrob Mutafyan, was also used. The document stated, “an individual named Firant Dink is among our targets due to his pro-Armenian activities. He is the editor-in-chief of Agos periodical, published in Istanbul by Armenians and is in close ties with the vicar of the Patriarchate, Mesrob Archbishop Mutafyan, famous for his Armenian nationalist inclinations.”

It turns out that the “deep state” in Turkey had targeted Hrant Dink long ago, as revealed by recent court documents.

Indeed, in October 2014, Istanbul’s 5th High Criminal Court made a decision to begin Hrant Dink’s trial from zero. Prosecutor Gokalp Kokçu filed a lawsuit against 26 former and current officials who are believed to be implicated in the assassination.

Contrary to the statement in the above documents, Dink and the Patriarch were never close and their antagonism toward each other was very public. Only after Dink’s assassination did the Patriarch realize how close their destinies had been and he tearfully acknowledged that fact in his eulogy at Dink’s funeral.

It almost feels like that moment was the beginning of the end for the Patriarch.

Perhaps it would be impossible to prove medically that Patriarchy Mesrob developing dementia at a relatively young age was the result of the fear he experienced after so many death threats and actual bombs thrown at his headquarters in Kumkapu.

At this time, the Patriarch has been reduced to a shell of his former shelf. An Istanbul court recently appointed the Patriarch ’s 78-year-old mother, Mari Mutafyan, as his custodian. She will be entitled to represent her son by court order.

In the meantime, the Patriarch’s health has put the Armenian community in an impasse. The Turkish authorities cynically do not allow for the election of a new Patriarch as long as the incumbent is alive, never mind that he is in a vegetative state.

In any civilized country, such religious matters would be handled by the respective community it is affecting, but not in Turkey.

The fear that pushed the Patriarch over the edge and into his current state is shared by the entire Armenian community in Turkey and that fear is fanned by the government itself.

In a recent press conference in Armenia, a specialist in Turkish studies, Tiran Lokmagyozyan, stated: “Armenians have double fear in such cases. The first one is that the security of the state is under threat. In addition, there are individual fears for being Armenian . It is a well-known fact that whenever such incidents take place in Turkey, minorities, including Armenians, become the first target. We witnessed that when Turkey took measures against the Kurds, the name of the Armenians was heard more often, as if the battle was against the Armenians in the first place. The police made announcements through loudspeakers calling Kurds Armenians to insult them.”

No only do the police use the name of Armenians as an insult, but officials, beginning with the prime minister himself, Ahmet Davutoglu, justify also the Genocide, which at last count, they had said they did not commit. In a recent speech decrying the Kurds, who had opened an office in Moscow, Davutoglu said that the Kurds are colluding with Russians as “Armenian gangs did during World War I.”

Armenians have always lived in fear for a reason. The Turkish government has regularly encouraged the hatred and distrust of Armenians and from time to time, has terrorized them officially, even after the Genocide. In 1942, they instituted the confiscatory “wealth tax” (varlik vergisi) to bankrupt the community and to send affluent Armenians to the labor camp of Askale, where many perished under harsh conditions.

The pogrom of September 6-7, 1955, was directed against the Greeks, while Armenians would also share their plight.

The pogrom was instigated by a false-flag operation concocted by Ankara to incite the mob. Turkish agents were sent to Salonika to bomb the house where Ataturk had been born. That was enough cause to begin a rampage in Istanbul against Greeks and Armenians.

The Turks are masters of such intrigues; during the war in Syria, a plot was discovered, whereby the head of the Turkish security services (MIT), Fidan Hakan, was ready to bomb the tomb of the father of Fatih Sultan Muhammed (the conqueror of Byzantium) in Syria to justify an invasion.

Even recent bombings in Ankara are believed to be false-flag operations to justify the murderous rampage against the Kurds in the country’s eastern region or Western Armenia. Although Prime Minister Davutoglu said that his government was “almost certain” that this week’s explosion was the work of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the facts suggest otherwise. Indeed, a news item which was published in Nokta newspaper on March 13 states: “It appears that the Turgev Foundation established by President Erdogan and his family had already sent a message to its members BEFORE the Ankara bombing around noon, warning them to stay away from the bombed area. So the governing party had warnings about the bomb but shared the information with ‘his’ people rather than all his citizens.”

Turkey has become a dangerous place. Mr. Erdogan has unleashed the violence, with the hope and belief that he can control it to the very end.

After the most recent Ankara bombing, President Obama repeated his mantra that the US will stand by Turkey, however, no word or concern was expressed about the victims of the government onslaught.

Criticism in the western press is getting louder and louder, asking the West to abandon Turkey as a NATO ally. One of the last such articles was signed by Dough Saunders in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, with the following conclusion: “Mr. Erdogan has destroyed the unified and open Turkey he earlier helped create. And he has done so using the tools not just of an authoritarianism but now by silencing the media, of totalitarianism. It is time to stop treating Turkey as an ally, but as a country that has stepped beyond the pale.”

To figure out the irony of the situation, it suffices to refer to a news item which reports that Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin met with Armenian, Jewish, Greek and Muslim religious leaders and at the conclusion of that meeting he said to them that Istanbul has been a city where people from different religions live and that all the religious communities have been living in peace “in the city of harmony and fellowship.”

And this, when the eastern region of the country is a war zone, where Kurds cannot rescue even their dead from the streets and when the minorities are stricken by fear in the entire country.

Had Hrant Dink been warned early enough that the doves are no longer safe in Turkey, perhaps he would be alive today.