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Hopes for reconciliation fade following funeral of slain Turkish journalist

Hopes for reconciliation fade following funeral of slain Turkish journalist

As waves of mourners rolled through the streets of Istanbul this week in honor of slain ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, many liberal Turks were swept up in a sense that an unprecedented chance for ethnic reconciliation was at hand.
But just two days later, a darker reality was setting in: Many Turks are rejecting the appeals for solidarity and democratic reform.
They say the tens of thousands who joined Dink's funeral procession were mainly urban intellectuals, hardly representative of a nation of more than 70 million people where conservative Islamic values are deep-seated and the military is the most trusted institution.
In fact, many support the views of nationalists who are becoming increasingly strident in their condemnation of Western values they feel are being imposed on them by the European Union, which is considering Turkey's membership bid.
Dink had been forced to stand trial by nationalists angered by his calls to recognize the killings of Armenians in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide. He was gunned down Friday in front of the offices of his bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper _ allegedly by a teenager who had been incited to the crime by ultrarightists.
During his funeral procession on Tuesday, mourners chanted "We are all Armenians," urged liberal reform and called for the repeal of the law used to convict Dink on charges of "insulting Turkishness."
However, most Turks interviewed by The Associated Press on Thursday said the marchers did not represent the country and said they were against making concessions to Armenians on the sensitive issue of the killings.
"They should speak for themselves, they cannot speak on behalf of Turks," said Filiz Un, 32. "I am sorry for him as a human but they cannot pretend that all the Turkish public is behind them."
Turkey's expulsion and killings of Armenians during World War I _ which Armenians say claimed 1.5 million lives _ is a dark chapter rarely discussed publicly in Turkey or taught in its schools.
Turkey vehemently denies it was genocide and is battling Armenian diaspora groups that are pushing European governments and the United States to declare the killings genocide.
A headline in the right-wing newspaper Tercuman said that those who aren't proud to be Turkish "should clear off and leave." The article ran a day after a threat against Nobel prize-winner Orhan Pamuk by a handcuffed suspect charged with inciting the murder of Dink.
Turkey's largest nationalist party responded to the mourners' chants by posting its own slogan _ "We are all Turks" _ on a digital display outside a local party branch in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
And in a chilling sign that the suspects have their supporters, a fake bomb was left outside the Turkish parliament building saying they should be set free, CNN-Turk reported Thursday.
The defiant nationalist stand was alarming mainstream politicians.
"You don't recognize any laws, you go and kill defenseless people? That's not nationalism," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. "If you do that you are murderers and monsters. No one but God can take a life."
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged 17-year-old Ogun Samast with carrying out the murder while charging four others with inciting the assassination.
"There is a fault line passing right through the middle of society," wrote Turker Alkan, a columnist for the center-left Radikal newspaper. "Those who cannot reconcile Hrant Dink's murder with humanity, consciousness and moral values are on the one side; those who don't really oppose the murder because of their nationalist sentiments and their religious beliefs are on the other."
Selami Ince, news editor of the Istanbul-based Alawite television, Su TV, explained that few of the marchers at the funeral were Turks with roots in the Anatolian heartland.
"Unfortunately, they do not represent the Turkish public," Ince said. "The Turkish public has not filled the streets with demands of democracy and freedom. They were leftists, Armenians, Kurds and those intellectuals who favor multiculturalism."
Samast and Yasin Hayal _ the man who threatened Pamuk _ were members of the youth wing of the right wing nationalist and deeply religious Great Unity Party in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon. They left the party two years ago, allegedly criticizing it for being too soft and inactive, private CNN-Turk television reported Thursday.
"Despite all (Dink's) efforts, he could not help prevent feelings of vengeance by Turkish nationalists who operated under a venomous climate to bully Turkey's liberals and democratic elements or those who feel committed to stop Turkey's march to the European Union," wrote Cengiz Candar of Turkish Daily News.
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Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-11-30 06:11 GMT+08:00