Dark nationalist forces in Turkey

However much it tries to cover up its faults, Turkey sometimes gives itself away. It has done it again now, by inciting the teenager who took the life of Turkish-Armenian journalist and editor Hrant Dink last Friday. The international community now has the impression that all of Turkey’s attempts to tweak the criminal code and march forward with reform are far from enough. Deep down, many Turks are still influenced by the logic of an era where murdering journalists and persecuting Kurds was considered necessary for the survival of the Turkish state. Everyone is now waiting to see what will happen. A large proportion of the Turkish population is deeply offended and is wondering how it can be that, in the 21st century, such antiquated nationalism can exist among the masses and provoke the loss of lives. All those citizens who accompanied Dink’s coffin to Istanbul’s Armenian cemetery have already crossed to the other side. They are taking their own initiative to stand up for the respect of human rights and minority groups and for freedom of speech. Writers such as Elif Safak, Yasar Kemal, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, and hundreds of others who have experienced firsthand what it mean to «insult Turkishness» (according to Article 301 of the country’s penal code), are now trying to lay down the foundations for freedom and tolerance. But since when have good intentions been enough? Diplomats believe that the murder of Dink represents an ideal opportunity for Ankara to abolish the controversial Article 301 and conform more quickly to European Union standards. But there are other commentators who believe that the current pre-electoral period in Turkey will become an alibi for the political inactivity which is to follow. And it is quite likely that there will be little action, if we are to judge by the overwhelmingly negative comments of several Turkish government officials. The decision by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to appear at Dink’s funeral, which was attended by some 100,000 citizens, speaks volumes. Evidently the premier is unwilling to lose nationalist voters. Turkey has always needed an enemy in order to go forward, whether it be Greece, the Armenians or the Kurds. When it has no enemy, it ensures that it creates one, and alongside this consolidates the myth of its national identity being under constant threat. «Whoever (Dink’s) murderer was, whether he was 17 or 27 years old, he was once a baby. If we fail to tackle the scourge that turns this baby into a murderer, we will not achieve anything,» Dink’s widow Rakel said at her husband’s funeral.

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