Agos' archive: A pigeon-like unease of my spirit

Today, in Agos' archive, there is an article by Hrant Dink, "A pigeon-like unease of my spirit", which was published in Agos on January 19, 2007.

I did not at first feel troubled about the investigation that was opened against me by Şişli Public Prosecutor's office with the accusation of "insulting Turkishness". 

It was not a first. I was familiar with this accusation, thanks to a similar lawsuit filed against me in Urfa. I was being tried in Urfa for 3 years for "denigrating Turkishness" on the grounds  that I stated that "I was not a Turk ... but from Turkey and an Armenian,” at a conference held in Urfa in 2002. I didn't even know how this lawsuit was proceeding. I was not interested in it at all. My lawyer friends in Urfa were attending the hearings in my absence.

I was even quite indifferent, when I went to Şişli Public Prosecutor for giving a statement. After all, I knew my intentions and what I wrote very well. Once the prosecutor had the chance to asses not just that single sentence from my article that made no sense by itself but the text as a whole, he would easily understand that I had no intention of "denigrating Turkishness" and this comedy would come to an end.

I was certain that a lawsuit would not be filed at the end of the investigation. 

I was sure of myself. 

But, surprise! A lawsuit was filed.

But I was still feeling optimistic.

I was so optimistic that, on a TV show that I joined live, I even told the lawyer Kerinçsiz, who was the one accusing me, that “he should not get too excited, because I am not going to receive a sentence at the end and if I receive a sentence, I would leave this country." I was sure of myself, because I had no determination or intention to denigrate Turkishness, when I was writing that article. The ones who read all of my articles would understand this very clearly.

Indeed, the report prepared by the three faculty members from Istanbul University, who were appointed by the court as experts, revealed this fact. 

There was nothing to be worried about; it was certain that they will make it right at some point of the trial.

So, I kept putting up with it with patience...

But they didn't make it right.

The prosecutor demanded a sentence despite the expert report. 

Then, the judge sentenced me to 6 months in prison.

When I first heard about my sentence, I found myself under the bitter pressure of the hopes I had cherished throughout the trial process. I was at a loss... I was feeling extremely disappointed and rebelling.

I had been enduring for days and months saying, “just wait for the final decision; once I am acquitted of these charges, those people will regret what they have said and written.”

After every hearing, reports, columns and TV shows were telling that I stated that "the blood of the Turks is poisonous." 

With every step, I was becoming more famous as "the enemy of Turks." 

In the halls of the courthouses, the fascists were attacking me and uttering racist curses. 

They were carrying insulting posters. For months, I had been receiving hundreds of threats via phone, e-mail and post. 

Despite all, I was putting up with this with patience and waiting for the decision of acquittal.

Once the ruling was made, the truth would be revealedand all these people would be ashamed of what they had done.

My only weapon was my sincerity. 

But the ruling was made and all my hopes were crushed. 

Afterwards, I found myself in the most distressed situation for a person. 

The judge made the ruling in the name of the "Turkish nation" and it was legally approved that I had "denigrated Turkishness." 

It was the only thing that I cannot endure.

From my perspective, if a person denigrates the people that he has been living together because of ethnic or religious difference, it is racism and it is not something to be forgiven.

With such a state of mind, I made the following statement to the press members and friends who were at my door asking "whether I will leave this country as I stated earlier”.

"I will talk to my lawyers. I will appeal to the Supreme Court; I would even go to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. If neither court would clear me of those charges, then I would leave my country. Since, in my opinion, someone who is sentenced because of such charges does not have the right to live together with those citizens that he denigrated."

I was emotional as always, when I was making that statement. My only weapon was my sincerity.

Dark humor

However, the dark force that had been trying to alienate me and point me as a target in the eyes of the people of Turkey managed to find something wrong with that statement and a lawsuit was opened against me with the charge of attempting to influence the court this time. Though the entire Turkish media had covered my statement, they were still occupied with what I wrote in Agos. 

This must be what people call "dark humor".

I was the accused one; who could have the right to try to influence the judiciary more than me? Ironically, they decided to try the accused one with the charge of influencing the court.

"In the name of the Turkish state"

I must confess that I have no trust in the concept of "law" and the "system of justice" in Turkey anymore.

How could I maintain my trust? Those prosecutors and judges are the people who studied law. Shouldn't they be able to comprehend what they read?

However, judiciary in this country is not independent, as many of the statesmen and politicians say without hesitation.

The judiciary does not protect the rights of the citizens, it protects the state instead. The judiciary is not there for the citizens; rather, it is controlled by the state.

However, I was absolutely sure that, even though it was stated that the ruling was made "in the name of the Turkish nation", it was clearly not a ruling that is made "on behalf of the Turkish nation", but rather "on behalf of the Turkish state." So, my lawyers were going to appeal to the Supreme Court. But how can we be sure that those dark forces that are determined to teach me my place won't be also influential there?

Also, can we say that the Supreme Court always makes the right decision?

After all, it was the same Supreme Court that allowed the properties of the foundations to be confiscated. 

Despite the efforts of the Chief Prosecutor

Did any good come of our appeal?

The Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court stated that there was no evidence of crime, just like the experts did, and asked for my acquittal, but the court found me guilty anyway.

The Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court was certain about what he had read and understood, just like I was certain what I wrote; so, he objected to the decision and took the lawsuit to the General Council.

However, there was nothing to be done. That great force, which was determined to teach me my place and which had probably made its presence felt during my trial in ways that I would not even have a clue, was pulling the wires again. So, the General Council also decided by majority that I had denigrated Turkishness. 

Like a pigeon 

The ones who tried to alienate me, leave me weak and defenseless, succeeded in their way; this is obvious. With the disinformation they imposed on people, they managed to make many people to consider Hrant Dink as someone "denigrating Turkishness".

In my computer, there are lines full of anger and threats sent by those people. 

(At this point, I must note that one of these letters was sent from the neighboring city of Bursa, which I found particularly disturbing because of the proximity of the danger it represented; I therefore handed it to the Şişli Prosecutor's Office, but haven't got a response to this day.)

To what extent are those threats real? Honestly, I cannot determine that of course. 

The real threat is the psychological torture that I am going through by myself and this is unbearable. 

"What are these people thinking about me now?" is the question that tickles my fancy.

Unfortunately, I became more famous and I feel that people look at me and say "Oh, look, isn't he that Armenian guy?"

And, like a reflex, I start torturing myself.

This torture has two aspects: curiosity and uneasiness. 

Being cautious on one hand and timidness on the other.

 I am just like a pigeon... 

I am as obsessed as a pigeon about what is happening around me. 

I keep turning my head like a pigeon. 

And here is the cost for you

What did the Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül state? And the Minister of Justice Cemil Çiçek?

"Come on, there is nothing to be exaggerated about Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Is there anyone who has actually been tried and imprisoned from it?"

As if the only cost one might pay was imprisonment...

Here is a cost for you... Here is a cost ...

Do you, the ministers, have any idea about living with the uneasiness of a pigeon? Do you know what kind of a cost is this?

Have you ever watch a pigeon?

Matter of "life-or-death"

I haven't been going through easy times. This is a difficult time that we are going through as a family. 

There were times when I seriously considered leaving the country and moving away. 

Especially when the threats started to target my loved ones... 

When it happens, I always feel desperate. 

That must be what they call a matter of "life-or-death." I could have resisted out of my own will, but I do not have the right to put my loved ones into danger. I could have been my own hero, but I do not have the right to put anyone, let alone my loved ones, in danger just to be brave. 

During such desperate times, I gather together with my family, my children, take refuge in them and they give me the greatest support. They have faith in me. 

We would stay together, no matter where we go. 

If I said, "Let's go" they would go; if I said, "Let's stay" they would stay.

To stay and resist

Well, where could we go?

To Armenian republic?

How long someone like me, who could not stand injustices, would put up with the injustices there? Wouldn't I get into even more serious troubles there?

To go and live in the European countries was not for me at all.

After all, I get bored after spending 3 days in the west and miss my country and cannot wait to go back. What would I do in the west?

I would feel disturbed by the comfort!

Leaving "boiling hell" for "ready-made heavens" was not for a person like me at all.

We were the ones who volunteered to transform the hell they lived into heavens.

To stay and live in Turkey was necessary because this is what we desired and what we had to do out of respect for the thousands of friends in Turkey who pursued a struggle for democracy and who supported us.

We were going to stay and we were going to resist.

If, however, we would be forced to leave one day... We would hit the road just like people did in 1915... Like our ancestors... Without knowing where we are going... Walking the roads they walked on... Feeling the ordeal, experiencing the pain...

With such a reproach, we would leave our homeland. And we would go where our feet take us, but not our hearts.

Timid and free

I wish that we would never ever have to experience such a departure. We have way too many reasons and hopes not to experience it anyhow.

Now, I am applying to the European Court of Human Rights.

How long this lawsuit will last, I do not know.

What I do know, and what comforts me a bit is that I will be living in Turkey at least until the lawsuit is finalized.

If the court decides in my favor, I would be much more happy and it would mean that I would never have to leave my country.

Probably, 2007 will be even more difficult for me.

The trials will continue, new ones will start. Who knows what kind of injustices I will have to confront?

Through all of these, I will have faith in one truth.

Yes, I may feel like I have the spiritual unease of a pigeon, but I do know that people do not harm pigeons in this country.

Pigeons lead their lives deep into the cities, among people. 

Yes, somewhat timid, but just as free.


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Hrant Dink