Wednesday, 19 November 2008

BBC: "Violent nationalism blights Turkey"

BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports (her full report has been shown tonight on BBC's Newsnight programme)

Writer Hrant Dink was the first victim, killed last year because some in Turkey could not tolerate what he stood for. To nationalists, he was a traitor.

In a country where every citizen is defined as a Turk, Hrant Dink defined himself as ethnic Armenian. That was already subversive to some. But Mr Dink went further.

He wrote about the expulsion and killing of hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Armenians from eastern Turkey in 1915. To Armenians, and others, that was genocide - a claim Ankara vigorously denies. [...]

'Ergenekon' trial

In that battle for democracy, Hrant Dink was on the frontline. Now there is another sign the fight will be fierce.

Eighty ultra-nationalists are currently on trial just outside Istanbul, accused of plotting to overthrow the government and block democratic reforms.

The prosecutor claims the group - known as Ergenekon - planned a campaign of murder and violence. It was meant to create chaos - and force the military to step in and take control.

Hrant Dink believed Turkey could change. His vision was of a truly democratic republic and the EU accession process was a vital part of that.

To his widow, such change now looks a long way off.

"[Turkey] doesn't want people to express their ethnic identity, or live freely. That doesn't fit the founding ideas of this country,” Rakel says.

"Turkey needs time to adjust. The EU process may help, but my husband's death is their biggest loss."

*photo - AP, via BBC

1 comment:

artmika said...

Second part of Sarah Rainsford's report for the BBC: Refusing the hand of friendship:

High on a hill overlooking the city of Kars, there is a vast column of concrete obscured by wooden scaffolding.

What is inside was meant as a 32m (100ft) peace gesture from Turkey to Armenia.

"It's an image of two human figures, facing one another with a hand of friendship held out between them," explains the security guard, emerging from the portable building at the statue's feet.

But on the day the finished project should have been unveiled its giant hand stands severed on the hillside.

This friendship statue has enemies, and they have forced construction to stop. [...]

There has been so much fuss about his statue that the mayor has given up linking it to Armenia now. Now he calls it a statue for world peace, instead. But he has vowed to finish it. More...