After finishing the impressive tour, visitors can leave notes and comments on small colorful cards. “One day, peace will come. We have not forgotten.” Once you enter the main hall of the former office of Agos newspaper, a colorful wall will definitely catch your eyes. This wall is divided into hundreds of small compartments, displaying visitors’ words of contemplation and remembrance of Hrant Dink, the former Turkish-Armenian editor-in-chief of Agos, who was assassinated on the 17th of January in 2007 in front of the building.
The loss of the intellectual, who had been the soft but brave voice of the Armenian community in Turkey, is felt in every corner of the apartment. It had been serving as a kind of unofficial visiting place for international delegations and Journalists interested in minority rights during Dink’s lifetime. Now it has become a site of memory of Hrant Dink and the archive of the newspaper Agos. On the main corridor, the visitor is welcomed by a Video of Dink approaching someone. The video was produced during a documentary production with him in the same space.
By displaying some audiovisual content and historical moments from the past, visitors of the exhibition will be guided by Hrant Dink in Armenian and Turkish. The first-person perspective and narrative created an immersive feeling, allowing visitors to have a deep conversation with Hrant Dink. The exhibition offers a glimpse into Hrant Dink’s life as well as his articles and explains why the Agos newspaper was a trailblazer in Turkey during the times when taboo subjects were highly dangerous to address. The entire exhibition does not only focus on the assassination but on different stations in Hrant Dink’s life, which illustrate the historical stations of the suffering of the Armenians in Turkey. It covers his childhood, his and his wife’s involvement in raising orphans and other children in need, his political engagement, the path of how he got a target, his tragic death, and much more. It allows the audience to get a deep understanding of who Hrant Dink was.
An installation named “salt and light” by artist Sarkis is set on the balcony of the former office of Hrant Dink, just behind the desk he used to work. It is inspired by the metaphor “creating diamonds from pain” and gives visitors a space to feel, reflect, and commemorate. Next to this artwork, a wall scatted with mutilated limbs of a statue dragged people into the trauma memory of 1915. Centering a biography of Hrant Dink as a dial, the moving pointer reminds us of the effort he made in his whole life and the lasting power that resulted from it. It also indicates that the memories will not be eliminated by time.
Dink worked lifelong on the trauma the Armenian genocide caused in society as a challenging but central task for progress in democracy. His understanding of memory culture, research, and progress in the research of personal life history was connected to scientific research. Traumatic events may have lasting effects on the identity and awareness of a community. As cultural and communicative memory scholar Aleida Assmann argues, individual and group memory are interconnected due to the fact that people construct collective memory not only via lived experience but also through interaction, communication, recognition, learning, and involvement. The transmission of customs, rituals, monuments, archives, and histories from one generation to the next reinforces a feeling of belonging to a larger group.
As an extension of this memory site, the “Hrant Dink: Here and Now” exhibition opened at the Armenian Center for Contemporary in Yerevan, Armenia, on the 7th of May. The importance of communication and international dialogue is one of the central messages of this parallel exhibition. To provide it between Yerevan and Istanbul, a screen system set up in the office allows visitors in both spaces to see and talk to each other over the audiovisual system. The technology eliminates the geographical border and brings people together, Here and Now.
The Hrant Dink Foundation is running several events and activities around memory culture. A Festival was launched on July 2-3 at Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center under the theme “Co-Existence.” Free and accessible to the public, this two-day conference included panels, workshops, activities, and musical performances. During the event, experts addressed a wide range of subjects, including human rights, refugees, gender, environment, cultural heritage, and art in civil society.
The congress hall was hosting a colorful crowd. One of the workshops, named “Modern campaigning & Storytelling fundamentals,” presented by feminist researcher and journalist Ani Hao, delivered a practical introduction to campaigning and storytelling that was both engaging and practical. Focusing on campaigning from a people-power and systems change perspective, she underlined how to build participation and engagement through compelling stories. Through campaign-building activities and discussions, the workshop helped participants to build up an understanding of campaign strategy.
The activities were followed by a large number of young people involved in the festival and interested in all these topics. Outside the conference hall, a number of organizations and groups working on the rights of different communities and issues were also given the opportunity to present themselves, a platform to communicate with the public. Democracy, freedom of expression, and justice are global issues, not only concerning Turkey. People around the world should fight for their rights.
Some progress is already visible. In early July, the Turkish government announced significant steps in normalizing bilateral ties between Turkey and Armenia. A deal between the two countries was reached that, as soon as possible, third-country citizens would be able to cross their respective land borders into both countries.
Hrant Dink always pointed out that through communication and understanding, constant voice, and resilience, the peace process will eventually be facilitated. The foundation founded in his name follows his mission.