Sunday, 18 January 2009

"We Are All Hrant Dink" - the Hepimiz movement in Turkey

*Today's Zaman

The ridiculous headline "Hepimiz Keviniz" (We are all Kevin), broadcast by Star news on the announcement and arrival of Kevin Costner as the figurehead of Turkish Airlines' (THY) new first-class service, has been viewed as a gross and thoughtless misappropriation of a serious slogan chosen by Turks to express their sympathy for persecuted people both nationally and internationally.

The phrase "Hepimiz" (All of us) was made popular after the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink in January 2007. Dink was a talented writer, and as an Armenian with great faith in the Turkish people, he spent his life working to create an environment of tolerance and love that would accept him and others like him who did not fit into the state's narrow definition of "Turkishness." When his murderer, Ogün Samast, a 16-year-old, ran from the scene shouting "I have killed the gavur [foreigner or non-Muslim]," the nation responded with an outburst of shame. The streets were flooded with people and signs all defiantly proclaiming the same message, "Hepimiz Hrant'ız, hepimiz Ermeniyiz" (We are all Hrant, we are all Armenian).

Since then, the slogan has become a byword for grassroots movements defending human rights, free speech, equality, feminism and anti-racism. In 2008 when Italian peace activist Pippa Bacca was murdered while hitchhiking across Turkey in a symbolic bridal gown, her death was commemorated by those who mourned the abuse of her innocence and hope and by women's groups protesting her rape and murder with the words "Hepimiz Pippa'yız." The slogan made its first appearance of 2009 at the opening night party of the film "The Queen at the Factory." Hande Yener, the oft-touted Madonna of Turkish pop, stars in the film, which revolves around a brother's inability to accept his sister's homosexuality; she started the party by announcing "Hepimiz Gay'iz." The most recent example of the use of this phrase was in response to the savage attacks on Gaza, which have prompted marches in Turkey under the banner "Hepimiz Filistinliyiz" (We are all Palestinians). [...]

The Hepimiz movement is a small but encouraging sign in a country that has no specialized national body to combat racism and few NGOs to fill that gap. [...]

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