"The Hostile Bullet Backfired"
"The hostile bullet backfired. Turkey is united." That was the headline which the popular Turkish newspaper "Hürriyet" ran on the day after 100,000 mourners accompanied the hearse carrying the body of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink as it was carried to its final resting place in Istanbul.
And in "Milliyet" an op-ed piece by Fikret Bilar noted with satisfaction, "The Turkish people have shown once more that they reject murder, the politics of blood, the building of opposing fronts and weapons."
Deadly bullets aimed at Turkey
These two views reflect the main tenor of the Turkish press in the comments on the murder of Hrant Dink. They were following in the footsteps of the prime minister, Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan, who said in his first reaction to the murder that the deadly bullets had struck Turkey as a whole.
Although Hrant Dink had been taken to court over his statements on the genocide against the Armenians and had been attacked by the main Turkish media as a "traitor," it was now the same media which used his murder to invoke a new national unity.
This was the main message of the all the writers – that and a general and universal condemnation of violence – but it was clear from the way individual writers reported the murder and the reactions to it from which political camp they came and what position they had towards Hrant Dink and the minority issue in Turkey.
Threat to freedom of expression
In the left-wing daily "Birgün," for which Hrant Dink himself wrote, Melih Pekdemir was indignant: "You say these bullets were directed against freedom of expression," he wrote. "In fact the bullets were directed at our heads, where such thoughts are produced. Nothing ever happens to your thoughts."
Ismet Berkan, editor of the left-leaning liberal paper "Radikal," is assumed to be on a current death list, as is the Nobel literature prizewinner Orhan Pamuk.
After several columnists has attacked the government for not protecting Hrant Dink – who had received threatening letters but said he wanted no protection – both Berkan and Pamuk have been given bodyguards.
In one article, Berkan writes about this unwanted protection, and whether he should leave the country before the same thing happens to him as happened to Hrant Dink. He decided in the end to stay in the country.
Of conspirators and traitors
The popular daily "Hürriyet" adopts a liberal position: while the editor Ertuğrul Özkök turns the tables and describes the murderer as a "traitor," in the same edition the nationalist columnist Emin Çölaşan elaborates his favourite theory about a conspiracy of foreign powers. Two days later, he's reminding readers not to let this one case of Hrant Dink let them forget all the many other victims of political killings.
In the respected Muslim daily "Zaman," Ahmed Şahin refers to the life and times of the Prophet Mohammed to show that a Muslim may never discriminate against anyone on grounds of race, let alone murder them.
At the same time, the extreme Islamic nationalist paper "Vakit" takes a clear position: Its columnist Serdar Arseven counters the increasingly concrete suspicion that extreme nationalists from the "Great Unity Party" (BBP) were behind the murder by saying that such accusations are intended to destroy the party, which is attracting "a particularly dynamic part of the country's youth."
A widespread demand in the Turkish press is that, this time, the people behind the murder should be found. Behind that demand stands the suspicion that groups such as the nationalists, the Islamists, or the "deep state" – as people in Turkey call the country's mafia-like political networks – were pulling the strings. However the mass media have begun to adopt another theory.
In "Hürriyet," for example, Ertuğrul Özkök writes: "The psychopaths from the suburbs are slowly becoming the most dangerous terrorists in society. This is not a political matter; it's social and cultural. And for that we need psychologists."
© Qantara.de 2006
Translated from the German by Michael Lawton