January 24, 2007

NEW YORK, NY – A crowd of more than 1000 gathered opposite the Turkish Mission to the United Nations on Tuesday evening, Jan. 23, in a tremendous outpouring of grief and anger over the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The vigil was organized by the Armenian National Committees of New York and New Jersey, with participation from area Armenian organizations as well as a small number of progressive Turkish activists and intellectuals.

Dink was Editor of the Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, and was a leading voice of reform and democratization within Turkey. He was assassinated in Istanbul on Jan. 19 by a 17-year-old Turkish youth amid a growing tide of Turkish government pressure to silence Dink’s writings on the Armenian Genocide.

The event began at 6:30 pm with opening remarks by Herand Markarian of the ANC. Speaking in Armenian, Markarian stressed that Dink’s murder was an affront not only to Armenians, but to all those who stand for democracy and justice. “We are all Hrant Dink,” Markarian pronounced, echoing mourners at Dink’s funeral in Turkey. Markarian also noted the presence of hostile demonstrators approximately 50 young Turkish zealots who had assembled across the street from the vigil. In their attempt to disrupt the proceedings, these men loudly chanted “Armenian lies” and other hateful slogans and obscenities, leading Markarian to remark, “This is the culture of hate and intolerance we are up against today. We cannot allow such vile provocations to deter us from seeking justice.” Markarian’s comments drew a loud, energetic response from the crowd.

Markarian then invited Curtis Sliwa, Guardian Angels founder and New York radio personality, to the podium. Sliwa forcefully condemned Dink’s murder and repeated his solidarity with Armenian demands, noting that such acts were likely to continue until Turkey comes to terms with its past. Sliwa’s remarks were met with loud applause from those assembled.

The program continued with remarks by Antranig Kasbarian of the ANC. Speaking in English, Kasbarian noted that Dink was not an extremist, but a proponent of dialogue and moderation. In this vein, Dink’s murder becomes all the more heinous, indicating Turkey’s extreme intolerance of any moves toward change. Kasbarian emphasized that this was not an isolated act, but the result of Turkey’s ongoing policies of denial and suppression of dissent. “We all know this crime doesn’t end with a 17-year-old extremist. When the murderer says he isn’t sorry, and that Hrant Dink deserved to be murdered, then the true culprit is official Turkish culture which breeds hate and intolerance,” Kasbarian noted. “We shouldn’t look for hidden agendas in describing this killing. The agenda is clear for all to see.”

Dink’s murder would likely dash Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, explained Kasbarian. “Clearly, this crime is a major setback for Turkey. The country’s Prime Minister and Justice Minister now try to convince us of their sorrow and regret, but these officials only recently defended Dink’s conviction for “insulting Turkishness” with his writings on the Armenian Genocide. This clearly indicates that Turkey is not ready to join the civilized states of this world.”

Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church, then led a brief prayer while flowers were distributed to attendees. After brief introductory words, Archbishop Choloyan led the group in prayer while counter-protesters continued to attempt to denigrate the proceedings. They were eventually drowned out by the large crowd.

Kasbarian then read a brief biography of Hrant Dink and excerpts of recent statements made by Dink. He also acknowledged the presence and solidarity of progressive Turkish activists and intellectuals. One young woman from Istanbul, who was invited to address the gathering stated that she knew Hrant Dink personally, and that his loss was a loss for all freedom-loving people, Armenians and Turks alike. She concluded by reciting a poem she had written in Dink’s memory.

Participants then laid flowers before a candle-lit platform in Dink’s memory.

Kasbarian concluded with a call to action: “Hrant Dink’s death cannot go in vain. If we are to honor his memory, then we must continue our quest for justice. Make your voices heard: Struggle for Armenian Genocide recognition. Struggle for U.S. and Turkish acknowledgement of this crime, and of the larger cause we all hold so dear.”

The gathering dispersed shortly before 8pm.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Tony Vartanian
Email / Tel: (917) 428-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
Eastern Region
PO Box 1066, New York, NY 10040
Tel. (917) 428-1918 * Fax. (718) 478-4073 * Email.
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