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Killing of Hrant Dink and Fr Santoro: too many similarities

ICC Note:
To the Turks: “Be more concerned with the goodness of the state than with the good name of the state.” Turkey does not realize that in trying to save their pride by refusing to discuss the Armenian genocide, they only earn the poor opinion of the world.

by Mavi Zambak
AsiaNews (1/22/07) – A teenager has been arrested and has confessed to the murder of the Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, Hrant Dink. Ogun Samast, who turns 18 at the end of January, has not expressed any regret for his actions. A certain resemblance to the circumstances of the murder of Fr Andrea Santoro is, to say the least, remarkable: both murders were committed by persons from Trabzon, both of whom are minors and drop-outs from school and have ties with untra-nationalist environs; neither has displayed any sign of regret. The motivation for both was the idea of defending their nation.

In one newspaper, a Christian accuses the Turkish newspapers of being those truly responsible for the killing.

“As a patriot,” Samast said, “I was hurt by the words that I found on Internet of the Armenian journalist and I do not regret my actions. If I could, I would do it again. I decided that I would kill him and I did so.” These are the first words of a blood-chilling confession, and the murder appears to have been premeditated for months with the murderer having practised his shooting skills in a wooded area just outside of Trabzon, the city in which Samast lived with his family. This according to his friend, Yasin Hayal, who happens to also have a criminal record for having bombed a McDonald’s restaurant, again in Trabzon. That incident dates back to October 2004 when, during the month of Ramadan, “disgusted by a birthday party that was being held by some high school students in the restaurant,” Yasin did not hesitate to launch a bomb that seriously injured five children and another six persons. He was sentenced and imprisoned, but, after 11 months, he was released on bail.

It seems that Ogun had met with him 3 days before the murder and that his friend had urged him to kill without mercy on the grounds that “no one can offend our race.”

Thus, Samast went to Istanbul and after the Friday prayer at a mosque waited two hours for the journalist to shoot him in cold blood at a distance of not even one metre.

Relatives and friends of the assassin were shocked by the news, saying that it was impossible that the young man could have done such a thing. The uncle whom Samast had visited before committing the murder says that his nephew is “like a child, who doesn’t even know how to get around Istanbul; he dropped out of middle school, can’t keep a job and is always broke.” According to his uncle, there must be an organization behind him that incited and guided him step by step.

Various newspapers today are also asking the big question: how could a teenager have committed this murder which seems to be the work of a professional, considering also the pistol and the ammunition used?

Ten people are currently being questioned in Istanbul, but so far police authorities have yet to release any official declaration on probable political implications, even though many Turkish journalists have suggested that the ultra-nationalist youth association BBP (Great Union Party) is behind everything.

All have commented on the remarkable resemblance of this murder to that of Fr Andrea Santoro not even a year ago.

Is it all just a coincidence?

Once again the city of Trabzon is in the spotlight.

A port city on the Black Sea with approximately one million inhabitants, Trabzon had historically been known as a cosmopolitan city given the peaceful coexistence of the different cultures, races and religions, after the enormous and painful exchange of populations between the Turks and the Greeks, mandated by Ataturk at the beginning of the past century. It gradually became more and more a closed, nationalistic and religiously fanatical city. According to Abdurrahaman Yildirim of the Sabah newspaper, the country’s big economic crisis in 2001 worsened the situation and the city has yet to recover. Unemployment is high and teenagers and young people often gather in gangs to pass the time. The general situation in the city seems to be getting worse and worse and this could explain why the city has become a centre for violent nationalistic organizations that feed on prevailing anger and discontent.

In fact, Adem Solak, lecturer at the Black Sea University and therapist of Fr Andrea’s killer, had warned, after the assassination of the Roman priest, that similar incidents could occur again in Trabzon and had invited relevant civil authorities to deal with the city’s youth issues, citing the problem of the lack of any educational programme aimed at wayward young people who model their behaviour and opinions solely on media sources that preach fanaticism, nationalistic pride and that incite them to make heroic gestures as a means to emerge from the anonymity to which they are otherwise condemned.

Fittingly significant is the intense reaction of a Christian who for obvious reasons wishes to remain anonymous: “You have killed him…yes, Dink was killed by those of you who raise your voices like swords against all those who speak of the genocide of the Armenians…You have fueled these nationalistic groups…those of you who do not accept a historical-scientific inquest into the Armenian tragedy…They are fanatical but you are nationalistic…ready to condemn anyone who uses the word Turkey in vain. Enough with saving an image; now is the time to begin redeeming freedom of thought in the country…they kill and you provide the template for a way of thinking that provides an excuse for killing. You did this also with Fr Andrea… with all your accusations against Christians, against so-called missionaries, against priests…If only I could say these works openly without fear of being killed…You have dug a grave and have fallen in it. Down with ideology…historical truth is based on a scientific method. Down with slander. Be more concerned with the goodness of the state than with the good name of the state. Now you too are afraid…be careful of what you write, and how you say things… That man was condemned by your own laws, a man whom you yourselves are defending today for his courage, his freedom of thought, his love for the place in which he was born and died, and for which he died. You have defended him because you want to defend yourselves but this was not done for Fr Andrea…how many slanderous articles are still before our eyes…he was a priest, different from you. Let’s save diversity in this country.”

Hrant Dink’s funeral will be held tomorrow in Istanbul. The funeral procession will begin at 11 a.m. and a civil ceremony will be held in front of the doorway of Agos’ editorial offices, the scene of the murder. The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. at the Armenian church of Kumkapi, dedicated to the Mother of God, seat of the Armenian patriarchate where less than a month ago Pope Benedict XVI visited and prayed.

Foreign minister Abdullah Gul officially invited the Armenian ambassador and the European and American religious leaders of the Armenian diaspora, announcing that the Turkish government will cover all costs for the ceremony and for hospitality.

This decision was taken after the minister spoke with New York’s Armenian Archbishop Barsamyan to extend a warm invitaiton to “make a historic gesture of communion.” An invitation that was accepted and that can be considered the first fruit of Hrant Dink’s death.