Saturday, January 19, 2008

Can we bring any changes?


An open letter to Turkish and Armenian intellectuals

by Hovhannes Nikoghosyan,
Managing Editor of “Actual Policy” Journal
He can be reached at

A year has passed since we do not have Hrant Dink among us. Naturally, a one-year-term is a good standpoint to try to analyze what major changes we have in Turkey regarding “freedom of speech” issue, and also in the Turkish-Armenian relations to a certain extent. Unfortunately I did not know Hrant Dink in person, but the idea he has left for us is very much actual and just.

Being one of major and most important freedoms of all civil societies all over the world, “freedom of speech” is the one to be most of all pressured by Governments. During 2007, after Hrant Dink was slain, other Turkish intellectuals were deprived of this basic human right under the controversial 301 article of Turkish Penal Code. But now this article is being amended by Turkish legislature. According to the drafted law those who will disobey the “301” will be charged only in case the Justice ministry agrees with it. It is not difficult to imagine the sad consequences if a minister, judge or a prosecutor will be appointed to a position not being in a friendly atmosphere with free-thinking in Turkey.

I hope somebody will agree with me: no matter what laws exist in Penal Codes, it is more important how they are enforced and utilized. So, the main point is to enforce the right laws at right wrongdoing, if there is such.

We need the mentality of Turkish lawmakers and other authorities, including judicial ones, to change their mentality and not the law been amended, because only in this way we can guarantee the freedom of speech.

For us in Armenia and for Diaspora Armenians worldwide the 2007 showed that nor Armenians neither Turks are ready for open dialogue concerning mutual past. We could not move forward highly announced statements and assurances by state high officials. The most recent fact is that Turkish authorities and lawmakers did not accept the invitation to take part in Parliament hearings on Armenian-Turkish relations on December 19-20, 2007 in Yerevan.

Yes, today we should rather acknowledge that we are not ready to improve our relations at the moment and even after our recent mutual tragedy: murder of Hrant Dink.

But the thing that truly disturbs me today most of all: can we stop our relations from worsening? This is the very issue to work and think over seriously.

For instance, can we organize 2 bilateral conferences in 2008 – in Ankara and in Yerevan – to discuss openly all concerned issues in bilateral agenda? Do we want this? And do we need this? Hope somebody will answer positively.

I deeply believe we need to stop making useless political statements and stop lying to international community. Let us think a bit seriously. What can be done to stop worsening our existing ties and demonizing one another?

The author is Managing Editor of “Actual Policy” Journal. He can be reached at

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