‘Memory site’ captures heart, soul of slain Armenian-Turkish journalist. Today is Hrant Dink’s Memorial Day

Today is Hrant Dink’s Memorial Day

‘Memory site’ captures heart, soul of slain Armenian-Turkish journalist

Thirteen years since his assassination on the steps of an Istanbul-based newspaper he once ran, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink’s office has at long last been reopened to the public as a memorial.

Founder and editor of the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, Dink was gunned down in broad daylight in front of his Istanbul office in 2007 on Jan. 19.

The final result of Dink’s murder case has long been awaited, with his family and friends continuing on the quest for justice. A total of 76 suspects are on trial as part of the case.

‘Memory site’ captures heart, soul of slain Armenian-Turkish journalist

Every year on Jan. 19, thousands gather in front of the building, where Dink was killed to commemorate the slain journalist.

Due to the “symbolic significance of the site and its place in the collective memory,” the Hrant Dink Foundation — founded after his assassination — turned the building into the 23.5 Hrant Dink Site of Memory, named after an article penned by Dink in Agos on April 23, 1996.

Agos continues to circulate in Turkey in both languages, albeit from a different location where it moved in 2015. 

“We gave this name [to the site] inspired by Hrant’s article, in which he talked about April 23 and 24 and said: ‘I wish we could combine these two days and promise a future encouraging hope at the end of these two days’,” Sibel Asna, a board member at Hrant Dink Foundation

At the “23.5 Hrant Dink Place of Memory”, opened in the old place of the Agos newspaper, which has an important place in the social memory after the murder of Hrant Dink on January 19, 2007, Dink’s life, ideas, works and all stages of the process leading up to the murder are brought to the attention of the visitors.

“April 23 is a holiday for sovereignty and April 24 is a tragedy for us all,” Asna said, adding: “The site was opened between these two days, and is called 23.5, which promises hope and kindness.”

April 24 is the international day of mourning of the events of 1915.

The year 1915 saw mass relocations, which then-Prime Minister and current PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN expressed condolences for in 2014.

An important figure in the Armenian community in Turkey, Dink had sought to kickstart public discussion on the issue and was an advocate of democratization and human rights.

He was repeatedly prosecuted for “denigrating Turkish-ness” over articles he wrote about Armenian identity and mass deportations of Armenians in 1915.

A plaque that reads: “Hrant Dink was murdered here, January 19, 2007, at 15:05” was embedded in the sidewalk in front of the building where Dink was killed, serving as a stark reminder for visitors and passers-by alike in Istanbul’s teeming Sisli district. 

Hrant’s story

Nayat Karakose, a program coordinator at the site, told that Hrant Dink himself was given voice to impart his story on to visitors at the memory site.

“Those who come here learn the whole story from his own peaceful and dialogue-based language,” Karakose said, adding that guests could “explore all the rooms through his story.” 

Noting that Dink’s room was preserved as it was on the day of his murder, Karakose said: “In many museums, such rooms are protected by red cordons, we have not done so. We wanted the people coming here to feel good, and touch [the objects],” she added.

Among the venue’s many parts, it features the tirttava room, which focuses on the discrimination Dink faced during his military service; the Atlantis civilization room, highlighting Dink’s childhood years in Camp Armen Armenian orphanage in Istanbul; and the quest for justice room, which features videos, documents and first-hand accounts shedding light on the ongoing Hrant Dink murder trial.

There is also a piece of artwork titled, Establishing an Embassy Project, by German artists Horst Hoheisel and Andreas Knitz, which draws attention to the short-lived normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.

There are also several screens running videos of Dink’s past speeches. Karakose underlined that each video at the site began with a question and that the answers were given by Dink himself.

“We are not only shedding light on Hrant Dink’s life. We are also trying to raise awareness on universal values such as democracy, peace, human rights, justice and equality that he was advocating,” she added. 

Hrant’s hope

The idea of a memorial to honor Dink emerged in 2008 and it “was not easy” to achieve it Asna said. She added: “We had to prepare a site hopeful for the future, not worrying […] over a murder that tears everyone’s heart out.

23.5 Hrant Dink Site of Memory

The site was opened after long preparations, she added.

“We describe the trauma of the Republic of Turkey through the life of Hrant,” Asna said. 

“This place needed to reflect Hrant’s view of hope, future — his discourse and his belief in justice, humanity and love.”

People from all walks of life contributed to the funding of the site’s preparation, Asna said, highlighting that designers, architects and researchers had voluntarily helped in setting the venue up.

Those who visit will see how this murder was conducted, the process experienced thus far and what Turkey has gone through over Hrant’s life, she said.

It weighs heavily on the conscience to witness a murder through a memory site, some visitors leave in tears and others lost in thought, Asna added.

The venue is trilingual — Turkish, Armenian and English — and is open for visitors throughout every day of the week except Monday.

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