TORONTO — On the 10th anniversary of Hrant Dink’s assassination, Armenian political, cultural, religious, business, philanthropic and academic organizations of Toronto and Montreal gathered together to commemorate Hrant Dink and remember his immense contributions to human rights.
The Zoryan Institute of Canada prepared the contextual, audio-visual presentation celebrating Hrant Dink’s life, featuring the events leading to his murder and the significance of his loss to the cause of human rights worldwide.
On this occassion, Mr. Cem Özdemir, Co-Chair of the Green Party of Germany, and his colleague, Dr. Henriette Rytz, traveled from Berlin for the event to express their solidarity with the principles advocated by Hrant Dink.
Mr. Özdemir was one of the champions of Germany’s parliamentary resolution that recognizes the 1915 mass murder of Armenians as genocide and accepted its complicity in the crime, in collaboration with the Ottoman Turks.
Also on this occasion, Hrant Dink’s widow, Mrs. Rakel Dink, sent a special video message of appreciation to the audience and Mr. Özdemir himself.
“I would like to salute all of you with my most sincere thanks, love and yearning.I would like to thank all the organizers, participants and the ones who made the efforts to realize such an event in Unity. During the past ten years, communities and human rights activists worldwide come together to combat discriminationand strengthen their power. My special thanks to Cem Özdemir who is among you today. He was always on Hrant Dink’s side, ten years ago….He always had a share in this struggle. Thank you.”
Ms. Megan Reid, Zoryan Institute’s Outreach Coordinator, opened the event by welcoming the German delegation headed by Mr. Özdemir and revealed the relationship between the Institute and Hrant Dink.
”The Zoryan Institute shares the values promoted by Hrant Dink who understood that true peace can be achieved only if Turks and Armenians can speak openly about their past.”
Mr. Raffi Bedrosyan, the initiator of the program and Special Advisor to the Zoryan Institute on Turkish Affairs, was the moderator of the evening and summarized the meaning of the event: “The objective of today’s event is not only to commemorate Hrant Dink, but to reaffirm our commitment to continue Hrant Dink’s mission for reconciliation among people with different ethnicities, cultures and religion, particularly among Armenians and Turks.”
He further explained how Hrant Dink, the founder and editor-in-chief of Agos, aimed to eliminate all stereotypes, hatred & discrimination against minorities in Turkey. To demonstrate the type of hatred promoted by Turkish officials at the highest level, he shared a part of a speech by Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, who complained about people calling him “..even uglier things…an Armenian.”
The keynote speaker, Mr. Cem Özdemir, a close friend of Hrant Dink, gave a heartfelt speech about why he came to this event and why the German Bundestag passed the resolution. Speaking about his background and his values, he had this to say:
“I grew up in a Turkish family. My mother and father came as so called guest workers to Germany. They taught me that [I] should not select [my] friends by their nationality or religion but you select them by the heart they have. My mother grew up in Istanbul and experienced as a 6/7 years old child what was then a pogrom happening towards the Greek minority in 1955. She told me, they were our neighbours, we were living together. We visited them when they had their Christian holidays and they visited us when we had our Muslim celebrations. Then the nationalists came. Of course, the neighbours didn’t want to attack their neighbours so they had to bring in people from the prisons from far away to attack the Greeks. My mom who is a Muslim believer, stressed to me that [I] have to protect people even if they are from other religions or… are not a good Muslim.”
Referring to Hrant Dink’s influence on him, Cem Özdemir explained how Hrant “taught [him] most about the Armenian Genocide and what happened to other Christian minorities in Turkey. Without Hrant, I would not be here. Without Hrant, a lot of Armenians in Turkey, believe me, would not talk about the Genocide. Without Hrant, a lot people of Turkish origin would have never heard about the Genocide and without Hrant, the German Bundestag would have probably never passed the genocide resolution.”
“We should not finger point at Turkey. We [the Germans] should also talk about our involvement. We were eye witnesses, our diplomats, missionaries, knew exactly what was happening. They told us precisely and thanks to Mr. Wolfgang Gust, his wife and the Zoryan Institute, all of this is documented,” Özdemir said.
Mr. Özdemir explained the importance: “…that we talk about German guilt and German responsibility. That is why we talked about the responsibility of Germany, to do everything we can do and of course the EU too, that Armenia, the country Hrant loved so much and at the same time he also loved his other country, Turkey. That those two countries that Hrant loved so much, that one day they have an open border and it is as easy to go from Armenia to Turkey and from Turkey to Armenia. Just as easy it is for me today to go from Germany to France and from France to Poland.”
Reaffirming Hrant Dink’s mission, Özdemir stated the following: “If we have the chance to hear the other side of the story, even if they may be brainwashed, I am sure they will start to ask questions. That is the start for change and rethinking.”
He further added “….Trust the Zoryan Institute…trust what your fathers, mothers and grandparents told you, nobody can neglect that and nobody can take that away.”
He closed the tribute to Hrant Dink with a heartfelt statement, ”I want to use this opportunity to thank Hrant and say how much I miss him. I am sure you all miss him too.”