Hrant Dink’s Legacy Lives On

A few days ago, on November 23, 2017, Hrant Dink Foundation received the Chirac Prize for Conflict Prevention.

The Foundation Chirac was launched by former French President Jacques Chirac, after having served two terms in office between 1995 and 2007. Since 2008, this foundation strives for peace through five advocacy programs:

The Chirac Foundation also presented its Culture for Peace Prize to Zoukak Theater Company of Lebanon, which through the theater, has been contributing to the rehabilitation efforts of refugees living in Lebanon.

During the prize ceremony, which was attended by the Jury members and selection committee as well as the international media and leading opinion-makers that pursue rights-based advocacy. President of Hrant Dink Foundation, Rakel Dink, received the prize from the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron.

Here is in part what Rakel Dink said in her acceptance speech. “When we decided to establish this Foundation with our friends after the tragedy that our family suffered in 2007, we had just one intention: to continue Hrant’s efforts with this institution, and try to fill the huge emptiness created in our lives with his struggle for human rights”. 

“The goal of our Foundation is to fight against discrimination, starting from our own home Turkey, create a language of dialogue and peace, bring different identities closer, protect cultural heritage, improve Turkey-EU relations, open borders in an era when walls are being erected, contribute to the development of Turkey-Armenia relations and most important of all, to overcome the borders in people’s minds.”

She also congratulated the recipients of the Culture For Peace Prize, the Zoukak Theater Company of Lebanon. Here is in part what she said.

“As an Armenian who knows what it means to be displaced, it gives me great pain to see millions of refugees being uprooted and dispersed in the world today. And watching the response of the states to this situation is particularly striking. Unfortunately, hate speech is rising all around the world and pushing people into further withdrawing into their own religious or ethnic communities”.

Earlier when announcing the award, the jury of the Chirac Foundation had stated.

“Hrant Dink Foundation defines the development of a culture of dialogue, empathy, and peace as the basis of all its activities. The Foundation approaches to cultural diversity as a richness; defends that the differences are acknowledged as a right; and fosters intercultural relations between the peoples of Armenia and Turkey. The family, instead of withdrawing into itself and bearing the feelings of animosity and revenge, established the Foundation which has become an indispensable actor in the debates on Turkey’s democratization. At a time when hundreds of thousands of refugees are passing through the territories of Turkey, Foundation’s preemptive efforts to eradicate hate speech in the media through discourse analysis, media monitoring and education programs do constitute an immediate and determined action for preventing conflicts.” Well said indeed.

I wrote a Monologue titled The Tenth Anniversary of Hrant Dink Murder dated January 31 2017. I also wrote a three-part Monologue titled Armenians and Turks in January of 2016 and no need to repeat myself.

It will be sufficient to say that, Hrant Dink’s brave and daring initiatives to promote dialogue, freedom of speech, and democracy in Turkey, were a great success and he paid for it with his life. May God bless his soul.

Today, despite the current authoritarian regime’s persecutions of intellectuals, the violations of human rights, and freedom of speech, there are many and many Turkish intellectuals who pursue Hrant’s ideals and keep his legacy alive. Thank you to all.

Moreover, Hrant’s brave wife Rakel, their children, family members, and friends, are working tirelessly, to keep his legacy alive as well, especially through “the development of a culture of dialogue, empathy and peace… and most important of all, to overcome the borders in people’s minds.”  It cannot be said any better. THANK YOU. ՎԱՐՁՔԵՐՆԻԴ ԿԱՏԱՐ.

Let me finish by saying that, Diaspora Armenians and Turks, who, as citizens of the country they live in, with the values they share, should also start “the development of a culture of dialogue”.

Naive, maybe, but nationalistic and hateful confrontational politics by nationalists on both sides, which has been the “norm” for over a century, has indeed erected “borders in people’s minds” and it is time to start the process to overcome it. It is long overdue.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian


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