Hrant DinkTuesday, January 19, 2021
Hrant Dink (15 September 1954 – 19 January 2007) was a Turkish-Armenian intellectual, editor-in-chief of Agos, journalist and columnist.
As editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, Dink was a prominent member of the Armenian minority in Turkey. Dink was best known for advocating Turkish–Armenian reconciliation and human and minority rights in Turkey; he was often critical of both Turkey's denial of the Armenian Genocide, and of the Armenian diaspora's campaign for its international recognition. Dink was prosecuted three times for denigrating Turkishness, while receiving numerous death threats from Turkish nationalists.
Dink was assassinated in Istanbul on 19 January 2007 by Ogün Samast, a 17-year-old Turkish nationalist. Dink was shot three times in the head and died instantly. Photographs of the assassin flanked by smiling Turkish police and gendarmerie, posing with the killer side by side in front of the Turkish flag, surfaced. The photos sparked a scandal in Turkey, prompting a spate of investigations and the removal from office of those involved. Samast was later sentenced to 22 years in prison by a Turkish court; he remains incarcerated.
At Dink's funeral, over one hundred thousand mourners marched in protest of the assassination, chanting, "We are all Armenians" and "We are all Hrant Dink". Criticism of Article 301 became increasingly vocal after his death, leading to parliamentary proposals for repeal. The 2007–2008 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour.
Hrant Dink was born in Malatya on 15 September 1954, the eldest of three sons to Sarkis Dink (known as Haşim Kalfa), a tailor from Gürün, Sivas, and Gülvart Dink, from Kangal, Sivas. His father's gambling debts led to the family's move to Istanbul in 1960, where they sought a new beginning. Sarkis Dink's gambling continued in İstanbul, however, and one year after their move, Dink's parents separated, leaving the seven-year-old Dink and his brothers without a place to live. Dink's grandmother enrolled the boys at the Gedikpaşa Armenian Orphanage; Dink often noted his grandfather, who spoke seven languages and read constantly, as the role model and father figure who inspired his love of letters.
The Gedikpaşa Armenian Orphanage, an institution run by the Armenian Evangelical Community, was to be home to Hrant Dink for the next ten years. The orphanage children spent their summers at the Tuzla Armenian Children's Camp, on the Marmara beachfront in a suburb of İstanbul, building and improving the summer camp during their stay. The Tuzla Armenian Children's Camp played a significant role in Hrant Dink's life, both personally, as he met his future wife as a child and later married her at the Camp, and professionally, as the government-led closing of the Camp in 1984 was one of the factors that raised Dink's awareness of the issues of the Armenian community and eventually led to his becoming an activist.
Dink received his primary education at the Hay Avedaranagan İncirdibi Protestant Armenian Primary School and Bezciyan School and his secondary education at the Üsküdar Surp Haç Armenian High School, working as a tutor at the same time.
During his senior year, he was expelled from the Üsküdar Surp Haç, and completed his high school degree at the Şişli Public High School.Hrant Dink continued his education at Istanbul University, where he studied zoology and became a sympathizer of TİKKO, the armed faction of the Maoist TKP-ML. Around this time, in 1972, he legally changed his name (to Fırat Dink), along with two Armenian friends, Armanek and İstepan, to disassociate their factional activities from the Armenian community. His friend Armanek Bakırcıyan, who changed his name to Orhan Bakır, later rose in TİKKO to membership of the central committee, took part in armed struggle in Eastern Turkey and was killed during fighting in 1978. Having fallen in love, Hrant Dink parted ways with his friends and remained at the sympathizer level, completing his bachelor's degree in Zoology and enrolling in the Philosophy Department for a second bachelor's degree, which he did not complete.
Dink met his future wife, Rakel Yağbasan, when she came to the Tuzla Armenian Children's Camp at age nine in 1968. Born in 1959 in Silopi, Cizre, Rakel was one of 13 children of Siyament Yağbasan, head of the Varto clan and Delal Yağbasan who died when Rakel was a child.
In 1915, the Varto clan had received orders to relocate along with the rest of the Armenian population in the region, but they were attacked during the journey. Five families from the clan escaped to nearby Mount Cudi and settled there, remaining without any contact to the outside world for 25 years. Eventually they re-established contact and largely assimilated into the nearby Kurdish population, speaking Kurdish exclusively, although they retained knowledge of their Armenian origin and Christian beliefs. Armenian Protestant lay preacher Hrant Güzelyan (also known as Küçükgüzelyan), who was running a program for relocating Anatolian Armenians to İstanbul, visited the clan and brought back around 20 children to the Tuzla Camp, including Rakel and two of her brothers.
Staying at the Tuzla Camp during summers and at the Gedikpaşa Orphanage during winters, Rakel learned Turkish and Armenian, and finished primary school. Because Rakel was registered as a Turk, not as an Armenian, she was not allowed to enroll at Armenian community schools and her father did not give permission for her to attend a Turkish school past then-compulsory 5th grade. Not able to obtain further formal schooling, Rakel was privately tutored by instructors at the Gedikpaşa Orphanage.
Rakel's father, Siyament Yağbasan, at first opposed Hrant Dink's marriage proposal since the Varto clan traditionally practiced endogamy, but eventually relented when elders of the Armenian community, including Patriarch Kalustyan, applied pressure and Rakel declared that she would marry no one else. Hrant Dink and Rakel Yağbasan got married in a civil ceremony at the Tuzla Camp on 19 April 1976 when they were 22 and 17, respectively. One year later, at Rakel Dink's insistence, the couple conducted a church wedding ceremony on 23 April 1977. Hrant and Rakel Dink had three children: Delal, Arat, and Sera.