"Everything and everyone may be killed, yet conscience, benevolence, courage cannot be killed"

Hrant Dink, the founder and the editor-in-chief of our newspaper, was commemorated on the spot where he was assassinated 17 years ago. The commemoration held in front of the Sebat Building, which used to house the office of Agos, was attended by a big crowd. This year's memorial speech was delivered by author and journalist Oya Baydar, a friend of Hrant Dink. A message sent by Çiğdem Mater, a member of the 'Friends of Hrant' initiative, imprisoned under the Gezi Trials since April 2022, was read by Hanım Tosun, a member of Saturday Mothers/People.

Below is the text of Oya Baydar's address.

"My fellow sisters and brothers, dear friends, Hrant’s beloved family and friends, pacifist, conscientious, and enlightened people of our country who are here today as well as those who could not make it,

17 years ago, right here, in front of this door, “the darkness that makes murderers out of babies” - as our dearest Rakel described in her notable address -  killed the very conscience of Turkey. Yes, Hrant was both the bearer of the troubles and pains of this country as well as the remedy and conscience of its oppressed, suffering peoples.

Some people are special. They embody the values of their times, lands, and peoples. Hrant was such a person. As I remember him dearly today, I do not mean to offer a mere praise for Hrant Dink. This thought had occurred to me already back then when I met him for the first time in 2002 as we came together to establish the Peace Initiative. Our adopted motto “peace without ifs and buts” as well as our maxim “we reject the terror of power and the power of terror” were both coined by him. When he had been caught in crossfire, he said he would cry out “This is Genocide” right here in Turkey’s Taksim Square, whereas in Paris he would stand on a stone in Concorde Square and shout out “There is no Genocide”.  He was in fact screaming the language of peace against the racist-nationalist bigotry that turned peoples into enemies. He was a trailblazer breaking taboos, defying the lies, and obscuring of the official history. And we do know that the forces nested in darkness are most afraid of taboos being broken, of their lies being exposed, of their dark faces being seen. This is why they shot Hrant.

He was not a hawk, but a dove. He was deeply mistaken when he said, “I live in a dovelike disquiet, yet I know that the people of this country will never hurt a dove”.  Had he been hawkish or aggressive, had he defended the unity and fraternity of peoples through arms and violence, he would not have been targeted. The deep-seated darkness that prevails over this country had issued his death warrant precisely because he was a dove. Once they realised that they cannot carve out the image of a traitor from Hrant Dink, once they understood the silent power of advocating peace without ifs and buts, they simply wanted to silence the dove.

Photo Berge Ara.ian

It was 17 years ago today, around this time, when they took you away from your beloved country, family, friends, lands, from us Ahparig!  There were people attacking you by saying “You have eyes on this land.” And I remember well how you responded to them: “Yes, we [Armenians] do have our eyes on these lands, for our roots are here. But do not worry. We do not want to take away this land, we just want to be buried deep inside of it.” As one of the purest, most precious, and righteous sons of this land, you are now lying beneath the earth where your roots run deep. All the peoples of this country - Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, the Laz, Circassians, Arabs, Yazidis, Syriacs, all our roots are intertwined with one another in the depths of our land, just like an ivy. That’s why each and every year, we gather there in spite of racists, fascists and those who attempt to tear us apart and turn us into enemies. That’s why each year we cry out “In the face of fascism, you are my brother Hrant!”. That’s why we all chant we are Armenians. In an effort to keep the memory alive, not to forget, and not to let things sink into oblivion. But above all, to show that we accept your desire to live together as equal and free people on this land as your will...

Yet, regrettably, I do not have good news for you Ahparig. The darkness that befell on our country grows day by day, year by year. We have failed to defeat the rule of those who raise murderers from babies and vindictive generations from innocent youth. The values of humanity you sacrificed your life for are under attack by racist, fascist axis. Those who reign over the country, guard and reinforce their survival and power by sowing enmity among people. People are losing their faith in the future; their hopes being dashed every single day. They keep waiting without knowing what awaits them. We now realize better that the bullets fired at you were also fired at the peoples of this country, at its peace.

You were our conscience Ahparig. Everything and everyone may be killed, yet conscience, benevolence, courage cannot be killed. That’s why for the past 17 years, on each January 19th you are reborn inside all of us.  January 19th marks the day of conscience and fraternity for these lands, and it should be celebrated as such.

I salute those who cherish the same values with you, I salute those who vowed to defend those values courageously at the expense of their lives. I salute those who pay the price of advocating these values in prison cells and exile; I cannot possibly name them all, yet let me mention the symbolic figures Selahattin Demirtaş, Osman Kavala, Gültan Kışanak, and let me salute them all on your behalf too"

(Translated by Burcu Becermen)

Çiğdem Maters's speech

And below is the text of Çiğdem Maters's speech

"We left behind one more year of waiting with perseverance for justice to be served. One more year of facing injustice instead of justice…

After 17 years, the 17-year-old assailant is now among you, just like those who instigated and ordered the assassination…

We will neither give up on searching for the darkness behind Hrant Dink’s assassination nor our quest for justice.

The murder committed on 19 January 2007 right in front of the Sebat Apartment Building was not a “momentary” act. We do know this so well. On top of the unlawfulness of the past 17 years, what lies beneath is a century-old unlawfulness.

No matter where we are, behind bars or out, we do know the murderers, those who instigated and ordered the assassination.

They are not new actors, regrettably, they do not age…Yet it’s great that we are not diminishing either!

In loving memory of Hrant Dink, we are here with our embarrassment, our belief in and persistence for justice. We are not alone. "

Çiğdem Mater- Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison

(Translated by Burcu Becermen)