Saturday, January 05, 2008

Young people gather for Dink

Saturday, January 5, 2008
Turkish Daily News

Artists, intellectuals will be lending their voices to articles written by Hrant Dink, murdered journalist, publisher and founding editor of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos, to commemorate the first anniversary of his assassination

Armenian, Alevi, Kurdish and Turkish young people in Turkey have formed a group called “Hadig” to commemorate Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of bilingual Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos, on the first anniversary of his assassination. The word “Hadig” literally means “grain” in the Armenian language. The 14-member group composed of university students gathering through a civilian initiative formed the Tilili Project that took its name from a sentence in Dink's article titled “Armenian Identity”. A total of 19 articles written by Dink between 1996 and 2007 for bilingual Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos were chosen to give voice to the framework of the Tilili Project. The number 19 symbolizes the date Jan. 19, the day Dink was murdered in front of Agos' building. Dink's articles were read aloud by some of Turkey's respected artists.

Again symbolizing the date Dink was assassinated, 19 artists and intellectuals are participating in the project, where the biggest surprise is the recorded voice of Dink himself while reading his article titled “Su Çatlağını Buldu” (Water finds its crack). Hadig members Sibil Çekmen and Yeliz Kızılarslan told the Turkish Daily News that the Turkish media influenced Dink's assassination by focusing only on his articles that focus on the Turkish-Armenian issue. For this reason, they say, the group will present 19 different articles by Dink, each reflecting his different opinions on various issues.

The Tilili Project's display poster includes depictions of four pomegranates because this fruit symbolizes fruitfulness, blessing and togetherness in traditional Armenian culture. Kızılarslan said, “We put pomegranate grains on the display poster because we are each grains of this country and when we come together we form the unity and integrity of Turkey. May the grains of the pomegranate not disintegrate.” The Turkish audio version of Dink's articles will be available on headphones during “Apartment Project” that will take place Jan. 4-20, 2008. The project is expected to travel to Europe and the U.S. with English and French versions of Dink's recorded articles.

‘Tilili' for grief and cheer

The Tilili Project does not include Dink's disputed article “Armenian identity” that later was the subject of charges against him and a trial. Çekmen said they had trouble deciding whether to include this article in the project but left it out in the end to avoid facing potential legal cases. “Also we thought that Dink is not a figure known for or composed of his disputed articles on the Turkish-Armenian issue,” she said, adding, “Rather, we would like those who come to listen to his articles to perceive and comprehend him with all of his different personal characteristics”.

Kızılarslan explained the meaning of the word “Tilili” or “zılgıt” as the shrill voices Anatolian people traditionally utter during eulogies when they mourn someone's loss or a sad event or during cheerful events like weddings, etc. Çekmen said, “This project is also a zılgıt that belongs to us, the youth. We suffer. Our pain is so acute. But now it is not the time to submerge people in pain. We should do it as a favor for this country. We are excited about our project because we will be able to introduce Dink to people with his other sides, such as a grandfather who wrote letters to his not-yet-born grandchild.”

Kalan Music voluntarily opens its studios to 19 artists

The project's display poster also includes the following expression: Turkey's young people are conscious of the current issue in the country. Çekmen and Kızılarslan, explained the meaning of this expression saying, “We do not consider them a minority. The word minority causes pain in our hearts. We belong to a whole, a unity, and problems of this country are also our concerns”. It is time for action in the name of this country, they emphasized, adding, “Hrant set out for peace and we, with a sense of fraternity among us, should follow his path with self-confident steps”.

The project was prepared in three weeks time. Kalan Music, Turkey's pioneering independent music company that honors peaceful coexistence of different ethnic cultures in the country through its business, opened the doors of its studios to the project with the support of Turkey's respected artists and intellectuals including: Mehmet Ali Alabora, Okan Bayülgen, Haluk Bilginer, Yetkin Dikinciler, Halil Ergün, Arsen Gürzap, Banu Güven, Nejat İşler, Tuncay Kurtiz, Fikret Kuşkan, Ömer Madra, Lale Mansur, Meral Okay, Dolunay Soysert, Nur Sürer, Çetin Tekindor, Serra Yılmaz and Deniz Türkali, and Pakrad Eustukyan. The voices of these well-known people reading texts written by Dink have been recorded. Based on the Hadig group's selection, Dink's articles were divided among artists and intellectuals.

‘There may be reactions but we believe in common sense'

Çekmen's explained why the project was not realized by Armenian community foundations but within the framework of “Apartment Project”: “If such a project were undertaken by Armenian community foundations, then, people would refrain from attending. Rather, we wanted to appeal to the whole. Thus, a community foundation alone could not be an organ appealing to an entire people. We feel ourselves as parts of a whole and do not want to remain hidden behind concepts of community or minority”.

Even though the Hadig group suspects they might receive negative reactions against the project, its members say they believe in commonsense. Stressing that Dink's biggest dream was peace, harmony and friendly relations between different segments of society, Kızılarslan and Çekmen said, “If we as young people succeed in doing good things in the name of friendship and peace in this country, this would certainly make Hrant happy.” Kızılarslan is an masters student in the Cultural Studies Program at Istanbul Bilgi University and Çekmen studies Cinema and Television at the same university. She has decided to make her first feature film about Turkey-Armenia relations but stopped writing the film's screenplay after Dink was murdered.

“I used to believe that everything would go on all right. Just as I was taking the screenplay to Hrant, I learned that he had been shot. I just could not put my hand on that screenplay again. Along with Hrant, my hopes were also shot down on January 19, 2006. But still, I am going to finish my project and dedicate it to Hrant in the name of friendship and peace. This is a responsibility.”

Serra Yılmaz, theater actress: In my own perspective, the murder of Hrant Dink was a kind of Sept. 11. The process that began with the assassination of Dink showed how badly the legal system functions in our country. Rather than whether the case will have a result or not, how it will result is much more important. What I am interested in is whether the real criminals, the backstage perpetuators of the incident, will be found or not. I will take part in any commemoration program or any activities for Hrant.

Deniz Türkali, actress and playwright: It is an honor to take part in such a project. If only he had been alive so that no such projects would have to happen. Jan. 19, the day Hrant was murdered, was one of the worst days of my life. We live by forgetting everything we left behind, but we should not forget what should not be forgotten. And we should not forgive those who have no right to be forgiven.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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