Hrant Dink: Silenced in the Shadow of Turkey’s Penal Code 301

Hrant Dink: Silenced in the Shadow of Turkey’s Penal Code 301

Since shortly before the inception of the Turkish Republic, in 1923, a journalist has been murdered on average every 1.5 years in Turkey, columnist Oktay Eksi recently lamented in the Hurriyet newspaper. In the last 15 years alone, according to a recent report of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, "18 Turkish journalists have been killed for their work, making it the deadliest country in the world for journalists." Like a blow from an axe, the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink two weeks ago has cut yet another deep gash into Turkey's already embattled democratization and intellectual freedom.

The assassination of Dink, editor-in-chief of the Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper Agos, reflects a hard fact masked by Turkey's recent democratic reforms during its EU bid: Turkey is in the throes of a profound identity conflict. On the one hand, its archaic, oppressive political machinery lies decadent and gasping under the weight of recent European-inspired reforms that have resulted in democratic changes. Yet, conversely, the reforms have been met with a fresh burst of nationalist backlash. The draconian Turkish Penal Code Article 301, making it a crime to insult "Turkishness," has further nourished Turkish extreme nationalism. Since the article was introduced in 2005 -- replacing an even more strident law -- more than 96 writers and intellectuals have been persecuted, including high-profile cases such as novelist Elif Shafak, slain leftist journalist Ahmet Taner, and the late Dink, who was prosecuted three times under 301 for addressing Turkish-Armenian issues squarely.

In a case that resonated around the world, the article first exploded into the international limelight when it was invoked against the Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk for his comments made to a Swiss newspaper. "Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were murdered," he claimed in his infamous interview with Tages Anzeiger. "Hardly anyone dares mention it, so I do. And that's why I'm hated." With mounting pressure from the EU, the judge later dismissed the case over a legal technicality.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.