A river of mourners at the funeral of the murdered journalist
by Mavi Zambak
Hundreds of thousands participate in silence, of diverse religions and ethnic backgrounds. A funeral euology by his wife and the homily by the Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II. Absent Erdogan and Prodi.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of thousands of men women and children of every culture and religion today paid their last respects to the Turkish journalist of Armenian origin Hrant Drink, brutally shot dead last Friday January 19th.
From first light this morning an indistinct crowd began gathering around the entrance to the Agos editorial office, the magazine of which he was founding editor. Composed and in solemn silence they awaited the remains of the Armenian intellectual and proponent of freedom of expression.
There was no distinction of race or creed among the crowd, no ideological slogans – as Hrant’s wife had requested earlier – just small black cards held in the hands of those who attended with two thought provoking sentences: “we are all Hrant” and “article 301 is Hrants assassin” , underlining that all those present share in Drink’s dream of a true democracy of thought in Turkey, blaming article 301 of the Turkish constitution which penalizes anyone who dares to speak against Turkey.
Songs and Doves
Music and Armenian songs accompanied the heavy silent of the crowd for an hour, filling Istanbul’s most crowded street in a moving atmosphere of prayer and communion.
At precisely eleven, Rakel his wife took the microphone and with great courage spoke words which brought the entire gathering to tears and provoked them to thought.
She began by citino charter 15 of John’s gospel : “No-one has a greater love than this. To lay down his life for his brother”. A split second-and it was followed by resounding applause.
“It is from these words of Christ and from this deeply held belief that we today find our strength our peace” she affirmed in a moving but determined voice, Dink’s wife. Then she continued : “Thank you for your silence which sustains and comforts us. Thank you for not having made slogans. Today our love for Hrant is shown by our silent without ideological or religious slogans. You tell me that Hrant was a great man….Yes he was great because his thoughts were great, his dreams were great, his heart was great…
In silence, you are recounting out loud his love and his dedication and in this way you are making his voice heard. Continue fearless in your loving. Do not close your hearts and minds. Insist on your freedom to the very end. For a love that does not humiliate that does not despise or envy, that forgets fear, that does not crush or kill but rather lets itself be killed: it is by living this love that you will encounter eternity just as the soul which has left the body that lies before you now, a body separated from its children its nieces and nephews, friends, separated from my arms, but not from its nation”.
Following these words his wife and children wearing white scarves around their necks, released four white doves in flight: in memory of Hrant Dink who two weeks ago described himself as a dove who picks his way among the crowds in fear of being crushed but who is free and able to lift himself in flight to soar above all others.
Then, a deep silence and the funeral procession walks 8 kilometres towards the church of Saint Mary, seat of the Armenian Patriarchate where the religious ceremony took place presided over by patriarch Mesrob II and celebrated in Armenian.
The Armenian Patriarch’s homily
“The view that all those who have opinions different to ours are our enemies to be fought and silenced must end” affirmed the emotional Patrirach Mesrob II during the funeral homily. “Hrant was a courageous, generous and sentimental man with a great amount of love for everybody, from small children to the Turkish nation which he felt to be his homeland with all his heart”.
The Patriarch highlight the social dedication of the dead journalist and his acts of solidarity: “many know Hrant only as a famous journalist and intellectual, few know of his passion for those most in need, societies weakest and defenceless particularly for orphans with whom he closely identified. He who from the age of eight live and grew up in our orphanage here in Istanbul, sought all his life to help these orphans so that they would not feel abandoned or alone”.
Then referring to Turkish political authorities, he added : “We thank the Turkish president and the various civil authorities for the solidarity and support they have shown in this moment of deep communal sorrow. Your solidarity however cannot stop at this. Even if those who have different opinions did not talk or openly express their thoughts, no one should feel authorized to silent penalize judge or contrast diverging opinions and this all encompassing respect can only be fostered by your concrete daily behaviour, from our laws, and how they tell and explain our history book ”.
Veiled non Armenian women in the crowds
Representatives from various Armenian religious communities around Europe participated in the ceremony and were touched by the massive turnout. The Patriarch from Germany noticed the presence of many veiled women ion the procession and said that this is a sign of a great cultural change in Turkish public opinion: “Certainly even only ten years ago a gathering of this kind would have been unthinkable it would have been hidden and more modest in size. The solidarity and closeness shown towards this man, demonstrates the true heart and opinion of the Turkish people more than any other religious or political demonstration. This murder has not divided the population it has united them. This comfort me and fills me with hope for a better future”.
The Armenian Church of St Mary could only contain one thousand faithful; other tens of thousands filled the square and surrounding streets. Among the crowds there were numerous artists, singers and famous Turkish writers friends of Hrant. The absence of premier Erdogan was noticeable, until the very last minute an appearance was hoped for, together with the Italian prime minister Prodi who is in Turkey to open the Bolu gallery, designed and built by Italian companies.
Hrant was buried in the Armenian cemetery of Istanbul, beside his parents in the family tomb, to the sound of Armenian chants and prayer.
While the religious funeral was celebrated in Istanbul, in Trabzon – the place of birth of the young assassin - a popular demonstration protesting this vile murder act took place .