By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
COLOGNE, Germany — On the 11th anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink in front of his Agos office in Istanbul, Turks and Armenians and Germans gathered in several German cities, not only to commemorate his passing but to celebrate his life’s work, with a pledge to continue his struggle for equality, dignity and reconciliation. Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne were among the several venues for events on January 19-20, where speakers from the Armenian community joined with Turkish intellectuals, journalists and artists — many in exile here — and German human rights activists.
The event in Cologne on January 20 was especially significant because the city has become the unofficial capital of the “other Turkey,” with an expanding population of Turkish opposition figures. It is also the seat of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church as well as the headquarters of numerous human rights organizations engaged in cultural and political dialogue. The KulturForum TürkeiDeutschland and its co-founder Osman Okkan, a documentary filmmaker, joined with the City of Cologne’s Lord Mayor and Cultural Affairs Office, the German-Armenian Society (DAG), the Hrant Dink Forum and the Armin T. Wegner Society, to host an evening of political discussion, illustrated by short film clips and framed in musical interludes.
A Sober Assessment
The situation inside Turkey has deteriorated dramatically since Dink’s death under the rule of the increasingly autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP, with devastating repercussions on all aspects of political, cultural and social life, especially for anyone suspected of holding opposing views. This fact dominated the proceedings and lent a task orientation to the entire debate.