Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dink and the Deep State

STILLSHOT from the private television network TGRT.

Jan. 19 marked the anniversary of the murder of Turkish-Armenian activist Hrant Dink, a respected academic whose late career had focused on public discourse surrounding what is perhaps best referred to as the "Armenian Question"—how Turkey should come to terms with the events of 1915 in which tens of thousands of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire died in massacres and deportations. Although Turks had begun to talk much more openly about the Armenian Question in the years preceding the rise in nationalism that now seems to be influencing recent events, the topic is very much taboo and Dink was/is quite a controversial figure.

Dink was gunned down on Jan. 19 of last year in İstanbul by a teenage assassin operating as part of a larger network that is most likely linked to an ultra-nationalist gang with connections in high places. Suspicion deepened when a series of photographs were released soon after the murder. The photographs showed his assassin, Ogün Samast, proudly posing with security and police authorities behind a Turkish flag and a banner bearing an Atatürk quote, "The nation's land is sacred. It cannot be left to fate." Turkish civil society and press began to call for an investigation, but efforts have not resulted in much more than a group of 18 people who were tried in July. The investigation continues, but recent events suggest that it might be hampered by a cover-up within the security forces. In October, it was learned that the file of prime murder suspect Erhan Tuncel had been destroyed by security services on the grounds that its contents contained "state secrets."

The EU and human rights activists have joined many Turks in demanding a full investigation that might root out individuals involved in what has come to be called Turkey's "deep state" (in Turkish, derin devlet), a set of paramilitary operations with loose and shadowy affiliations to the military and security forces, thus operating within a zone of tacit, if not more direct, government support.

In his column yesterday, Turkish Daily News columnist Cengiz Çandar writes of the need to continue the investigation
When the connection between the Greek intelligence and the Abdullah Öcalan of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) came to light in 1998 for instance, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis took action and routed the “Greek deep state” completely. In order for Turkey to do the same as Greece, the country has now the opportunity to make the “justice mechanism” to work in the Hrant Dink case. That'd be perfect if the government can use this opportunity.

Unless Turkey makes the “justice mechanism of the Hrant Dink murder case” work, there could be no progress in the European Union membership bid, let alone the actual accession. A country having such a flimsy justice and security system cannot even get close to the EU. No one should be surprised if the investigation of the “Hrant Dink murder case” turns into a problem between Turkey and the EU.

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