I was a friend of Hrant Dink and one of those who felt responsible for his death. I was not so very close to him and we met rarely. But we were friends. We had built our own memories. We were the two panelists on the last day of an open-to-public workshop titled "From the Balkan Wars to the new Turkish Republic" on March 7 to 10, 2002 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. It was his first trip abroad. We were together in Paris in 2006. We were together on panels in Istanbul and Trabzon. We sat around the dinner table so many times and shared bread at his Kınalıada house.
I apologize to Hrant
I remember that we talked about everything, but did not engage in any "genocide discussion." The most important thing for Hrant was "conscience." Therefore, we easily got along. Although we met once in a while and though I was not so very close to him, we were always good friends. So I seriously felt responsible for not being aware of the fact that he was approaching death step-by-step.
I had no contact whatsoever with Ogün Samast, Yasin Hayal, Kemal Kerinçsiz and Veli Küçük. I learned the names of the first two after Hrant was killed. I heard the name of Kerinçsiz through his provocations and criminal complaints he made during the court sessions while Hrant was on trial at the Şişli Courthouse. And I have known about Küçük since the Susurluk incident. The first two are in prison for the Hrant Dink murder case and the last two are under arrest for the Ergenekon crime gang case. Still, I am one of those who are responsible for Hrant’s death because I had never thought that he could be killed and for leaving him alone at his trials. I feel responsible because I couldn’t anticipate that he could be killed and didn’t try to convince him that it was better for him to leave the country, at least for a short while.
But the trials at the Şişli courthouse were transformed into a show of lynching. Kerinçsiz and his friends had turned the courthouse into some other place and he was supported by the pro-Ergenekon, including Veli Küçük. Two days ago, Küçük said at his plea allocution in the Ergenekon trial that he saw a crowd in Şişli while passing in his car, got out of the car and entered the courthouse. It means, Küçük was coincidentally and out of curiosity there as Hrant was on trial. Küçük happened to get into the courthouse as though he was entering a shopping mall, carrying a gun in his belt. We, as Hrant’s friends, were not at the Şişli Courthouse, not even coincidentally. When Hrant saw Küçük in the room, he told a friend "Now I am dead meat." At that moment, Hrant felt that he may be killed. "After my brother saw Küçük at the trial, he had seriously started to think that he could be killed. He was awfully disturbed by that," one of Hrant’s siblings told me after his death.
During the pathetic trials of the Hrant Dink murder case, we learned that almost everyone knew even a year before Hrant’s murder that he would be killed.
The number of people at Trabzon gendarmerie, security and Istanbul security departments, who happened to know in advance of his death that he could be killed, is more than those who didn’t know. Even Hrant himself had the feeling that he would be killed. As I couldn’t see this and couldn’t do what was necessary then, I was, and am, feeling responsible. For this reason, I owe an apology to Hrant...
I also owe an apology to Hrant for not being able to convince Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to participate in the funeral ceremony that brought life to a halt in Istanbul and was attended by many ambassadors and politicians from Ankara and Europe and by at least 200,000 people, because Mr. Prime Minister was with his Italian counterpart, then Romano Prodi, for the opening ceremony of the Bolu Tunnel.
And I do apologize to Hrant for failing to convince our colleagues, media bosses and editors-in-chief to follow neither the funeral ceremony nor the trials of his murder case. I am aware that if Mr. Prime Minister and government members had joined the funeral concession, the Hrant Dink murder case and the Ergenekon case would have taken a different course.
After his death, I pondered about why I didn’t realize that Hrant could be killed and why I left him alone at his trials that were turned into "personal lynching" sessions in the form of nationalist demonstrations. So I am, or rather we are, among the responsible.
Getting into trouble in Turkey was something ordinary for each of us then. So I think I couldn’t see anything "dramatic" about Hrant’s being on trial. Prominent novelists Orhan Pamuk, Elif Şafak and journalist Murat Belge stood before the judge for violations of the Turkish Penal Code Article 301, about degradation of Turkishness, just as journalists Hasan Cemal, İsmet Berkan, Haluk Şahin and Erol Katırcıoğlu were tried for violations of Article 288. I also had a record of having my name in the military’s memo (andıç). These things were normal in Turkey and Hrant was just one of "us."
We forgot all about the fact that Hrant was Armenian. Yes, he was a passionate patriot who shed a tear for the land of Anatolia and was a Turkish citizen, just like us. But he was different; he was an Armenian.
The difference arose from the tragedy that occurred in 1915, though we, as Muslim Turks, don’t know very much about it, it has existed in our identity genes; or from the "Big Disaster," as it was named by the old generation of Ottoman Armenians.
I apologize to Hrant for not realizing the difference and not doing what was necessary then.
I am not fond of signature campaigns, neither have I participated in them. They look to me very "French." You sign a petition; it is published in Le Monde. I mean you fulfill the duty in an easy way. Some in Turkey subscribe for it. Their names are heard in crowded signature campaigns only. My "individualism" is against taking strength from others.
The "Intellectuals Petition" in the Sept. 12 period was prepared right before my nose and put into action. But I didn’t participate in it. As it was being prepared, we had reached the end of the Sept. 12 regime. I thought that such a petition would be meaningful only if it were published in the heat of the regime so I didn’t sign it.
A message on my answering machine asked whether I would sign the following:
"I cannot accept in my conscience the insensitivity toward the Big Disaster that the Ottoman Armenians were subject to in 1915 and the denial of it. I refuse such injustice and I do apologize to my Armenian brothers and sisters, share their pain." It took me just a few seconds to sign and send the petition.
I could have objected to the way of the campaign's preparations. But I pushed these all aside. There cannot be any other objections, or rightful objections to the more, raised against the "Intellectuals Petition." This was not it. This was sort of a "citizens’ conscience movement." No one can have any objection to set out collecting signatures of public figures. But this is not an "intellectuals’ movement." This is a "citizens’ movement" and the content of the text is just a detail. This is a "scream of conscience." In fact while I was writing this piece and we were just in the first 24 hours of this year-long campaign, the number of signatures from inside and abroad reached 7,000. Let’s say that 100 or 200 of the signatures were of public figures, how could you explain the remaining tens of thousands?
I am happy to be a part of the Turkish people’s conscience and one of the ten thousands to praise the honor of Turkey in the world.
So I can reveal a secret here: as soon as I read the message asking whether or not I will sign the petition, I felt that Hrant was watching me from above.
When I said "OK," I knew that Hrant heard my "apology..."