Monday, 16 April 2007

A Tribute To Hrant Dink

A Tribute To Hrant Dink

For MPs in the House of Commons

30th January 2007

After few seconds of distilled amazement and wordless sorrow, Hrant Dink’s tragic departure brought back home, deep in my heart, echoes of verses of wishful desire to refute his final odyssey, just as the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas eloquently sang his pleading verses:

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

But not to be. Hrant’s one-way/no-return ticket was cut by the Damoclean sword of rabid intolerance. He was exiled for good ‘into that good night’…

Hrand Dink was a maker of words. One time a student of zoology, philosophy and literature, he soon became a distinguished journalist and eventually editor-in-chief of his own bilingual Armenian/Turkish—newspaper, AGOS=Furrow. Hrant was a mass producer of words with a difference. He produced words to promote a culture of fairness and tolerance, historical recollection and reconciliation, ethical rehabilitation and compassion, moral reaffirmation and, above all, outright denunciation of terrorism, whether individual, group, private or public, mass or state terrorism, past and present.

Hrant was a renaissance man, not of doubt but of faith in human goodness --the essence of Humanism. He did not believe in the popular appraisal of ‘golden silence’. As a genuine democrat, he spoke for, with and to the so-called silent majority, encouraging it to have an informed say, then act upon it to change the status of placid and tacit obedience. But those anti-democratic forces, in his own words “the deep state in Turkey” that kept, or want to keep and are keeping the majority to be unworthy of any meaningful say, finally dared to prosecute him. They did, and they failed. Responding to an interviewer, Hrant Dink explained: “The prosecutions are not a surprise for me. They want to teach me a lesson because I am Armenian. They try to keep me quiet”. Naturally, Hrant continued talking and writing. They convicted him. They failed. Hrant continued to believe in and act upon his good words. A Christian Armenian, a devout and proud Turkish citizen, Hrant unwittingly seemed to luxuriate in the beauty of the ‘good word’ as envisaged in the fragrant Quranic verse of the Divine Unity of a “good word” and a “fruitful tree”, majestically delineated, thus:

It is like a fruitful tree

whose root is firm

and whose branches reach into Heaven.

Obviously his zealot opponents, claiming as if to worship their Holy Book, they, nevertheless, acted mercilessly against its holy verses. They even tried to terrorize him with death threats. They failed again. Though frightened like a dove—his words: “I look around to my left and right, in front and behind me”—Hrant continued producing his words promoting genuine friendship. His apparently vociferous words seemed to be challenging the time-honored advice even of a giant creator of words, namely Aeschylus and his verses in Orestes:

Taught in the school of suffering,

I have learnt the times and seasons:

when it is right to keep silent,

and when to break it.

Although being himself ‘taught in the school of suffering’, started with his childhood- orphan days, Hrant Dink chose to continue ‘the breaking of silence’. Eventually, the dark powers of cowardice found a scapegoat from their own zealot minority, to act as their instrument of ultimate intimidation—assassination. Literally a miserable teenager of 17, a zealot young man, gunned down a peaceful man of 52. Hrant’s wife, Rachel, his childhood comrade-in-orphanage, now a widowed mother, their three grown-up children, among them his son named Ararat, are now all left as orphans, just because father dared to refuse to be “tongue-tied by authority”, as the Bard of all seasons, Shakespeare, put it.

Hrant Dink is now no more. But has become much more, just like his words. He himself became his living words. Ultimately, those behind-curtain plotters and potentates of intolerance who are his real murderers, and, in essence magnum cowards, failed yet again, and miserably so. Hundreds of thousands of the silent majority of the Turkish Republic is now chanting and waiving the placards of their own words: “We are all Hrant Dink”, nay even “We are all Armenians”, whether they are of Kurdish, Turkish, Armenian, Assyrian, Jewish or Greek descent.

Once upon a time an arch racist, Dr. Goebbels, boasted his blatant inhumanity saying: “Whenever I hear the word culture, I release the safety catch of my pistol”. The question remains, why the all-powerful Nazi cult leader was terrorized by the mere utterance of the word culture. I would like to pose the following, that the Goebbels of this world, wherever they are, whatever nationality they claim to belong to, whichever religion or deity they claim to worship, and finally, whichever political party they are member of, should also be seen equally responsible for the murder of Hrant Dinks of this world, the makers of words of culture of human dignity, fairness, truth and compassion.

Yes, the Welsh poet was right. The good man Hrant’s seemingly frail political clout or deeds, but overwhelmingly potent words of humanism ‘danced in a green bay’, as his beloved multi-ethnic silent majority raged in serene dignity ‘against the dying of the light’ in their own country.

How fascinating indeed is the power of words. Not long ago, in February 2005, a Turkish art student turned a renowned novelist, soon to become a Nobel Laureate, uttered few words and a hell broke in his own country. Orhan Pamuk confided to a Swiss journalist the following: “Thirty thousand Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands and no one but me dares to talk about it.”

I was puzzled. Orhan’s comrade-in-words Hrant was, for at least a decade not only uttering similar historic facts, but also acting upon them daily to disseminate truth for reconciliation. Hrant was adamantly eulogizing the common, shared history of all the peoples of Pamuk’s ‘these lands’, namely Anatolia, which predicament the talented novelist was himself depicting in his labyrinthine tales.

The official denials and obscurantist atmosphere scrupulously engineered in the Republic of Turkey, since its inception, does play its derailing tricks even among the neo illuminati, the vanguard intellectuals of the day. The prestigious man of letters Orhan Pamuk could not afford at least to remember that more than half a century ago another Turkish writer, a world-renowned revolutionary poet, just released from years of imprisonment in his own beloved country, had “dared to talk about it”, albeit partially, but poetically and contextually. He was Nazim Hikmet, the proud Turkish poet. This magnum poet of the Turkish culture lamented the massacres of the Armenians as “a shame brought on the Turkish People”…

It was Hrant Dink’s journalistic panache, which prompted him to respond with eclectic candour to widely publicize the 2002 UNESCO Laureate poet, Nazim Hikmet’s 100th Birth Anniversary. It was an exemplary response, unlike most of the Diaspora Armenian newspapers. His harbinger, AGOS, particularly highlighted the London celebration of the poet’s 100th Anniversary Concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, on January 8th, 2002. AGOS relished with genuine pride my own participation as the sole British Armenian musician to that historic and auspicious event. Both, the concert and its echo in AGOS, will remain, at least for me, as humbling and graceful mementoes.

Oh, yes. The outlandish murder of Hrant Dink, the truth-loving Turkish Armenian pacifist journalist, overwhelmed us all. My Turkish musician colleague who led the musical accompaniment to my Hikmet song performance at the Anniversary concert, Cahit Baylav, was literally devastated. Still we all are.

I have not met Hrant. Knowing his work and being acquainted with his ideas, I enjoyed his words. His ideas were sometimes in tune and other times in discord with mine, as for example his gentle ‘advice’ to separate history from politics when dealing with the reality of Genocide. I remain in tune with the Scottish historian John Seeley’s powerfully distinct notion that “History is past politics, and politics present history”.

No matter. Hrant always left an impression of a visionary pacifist vis-à-vis historical veracity, data interpretation and conflict evaluation, tackling all for an eventual reconciliation and a lasting friendship. That proved lethal to his zealot opponents, who finally sealed his fate.

It is a historical fact that Fascism, of all hews and colors though mostly wolfish gray, has learnt, by shear ‘trial and error’, its most cost effective lesson, which is: to physically eliminate the individual who persists playing a fair and a tolerant game in society at large; the individual who enlivens the awareness of reality, acting upon it with an intellectual balancing stance. Fascism, hoping to terrorize the masses already tolerantly attracted towards the fair play of such individuals, aims at inducing terror to nourish state terrorism—the life-blood of post-modern Fascism too. Subduing Humanism is its ultimate goal. Yet again No Paseran! Post-modern Fascism too will fail, and abysmally so. But alas after many more victims like Hrant.

So it seems. Unless of course, humanity at large will ‘rage against the dying of the light’ of humanism in our turbulent yet still our one and only green world. Let us share the joy of that light as Hrant did. So did his English soul-mate, William Blake, writing for us all

He who bends to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

Hrant Dink too, kissed the joy as it flew.

Prof. Khatchatur I. Pilikian

Khatchatur I. Pilikian. Sometime university professor of music (USA), Pilikian is a performing musician, painter and a lecturer. “Leonardo da Vinci on voice, music and stage design” was the title of his research as a Fulbright scholar. He has contributed the entry Music and Turner in the Oxford University Press encyclopaedic publication titled THE TURNER COMPANION. In 2004, Pilikian’s choice of the word Bareshen=Built-for-Goodness, graced, as its name, the new AGBU built village in Artsakh-Karabakh. Pilikian’s contribution to the 2004 Conference of The European Network for Peace & Human Rights, European Parliament, Brussels, was his paper titled, Whose Rule Is It? Demos or Timos? The 2005 ENPHR Conference marked his second participation, authoring a paper titled, The Spectre of Genocide…The latter was published by The Spokesman 88 for The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. Garod Books of the Gomidas Institute has recently published Pilikian’s latest book titled UNESCO LAUREATES: Nazim. Hikmet & Aram. Khatchaturian

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