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Rakel Dink

Rakel Dink is the widow of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. She is the founder of the Hrant Dink Foundation, whose mission is to end discrimination of all kinds and to promote inter-cultural dialogue.

Rakel Dink, centre, sets free a white dove as her daughter Sera, right, mourns during a ceremony in Istanbul, 23 January 2007. AP Photo/Murad Sezer

In a speech made at Harvard University in November 2014, Rakel Dink reflects on the memory of her late husband, Hrant Dink:

Those who dream of peace should not give up. The ability to dream is our greatest power. As we dream, peace will blossom; it will have room to breathe. Let the weapons pause first, let death be silent, and let life speak.

On 19 January 2007, Armenian editor and rights activist Hrant Dink was shot dead outside his newspaper's office in Istanbul. Rakel Dink, his wife, had lived alongside him knowing they were under threat, but the couple was determined to continue to fight for justice. Within a year of the murder, Rakel Dink had founded the Hrant Dink Foundation that works to end discrimination and hate speech in Turkey. Like many partners of rights defenders who have died for their cause, Rakel has defied his killer's aims to silence and suppress and – through the Foundation – is keeping her husband's legacy alive.

Hrant Dink was editor of Agos, the first newspaper to be published in Turkey in both Turkish and Armenian. It was set up in 1996 to give voice to the approximately 80,000 Turkish Armenians who live with widespread discrimination. Its overall aim is to improve relations between Armenians and Turks, and it has earned respect for even-handed coverage that doesn't shy away from self-criticism, extending its reporting to problems faced by other ethnic and minority groups, women and LGBTI persons.

Yet from the early 2000s, a series of court cases were launched against Dink for his writings that called for recognition and reparation for the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in 1915. Accused of 'insult to Turkishness' he attracted the ire of right-wing extremists who protested outside Agos' offices. He was deluged with death threats, at one point receiving more than a thousand in one week. Then, on 19 January 2007, Hrant Dink was shot dead outside his office as he was withdrawing money from an ATM. His murder led to an unprecedented outcry with 100,000 people taking to the streets in protest. Eventually a young man – a minor at the time – was convicted alongside two other ultra-nationalists. The Dink family continues to press for the prosecution of a wider network of police linked with organised crime rings and extremist right-wing groups who they believe are implicated in the crime.

Rakel and Hrant Dink's deep love for each other clearly sustained them as the threats and court cases grew, and Rakel drew on that after Hrant's murder. Rakel came from a conservative Armenian family, and first met Hrant as a child when they both attended the Tuzla Armenian children's summer camp in Istanbul. They married when Rakel was just 17, despite her father's initial antipathy to her marrying outside her clan. The couple went on to work as counsellors at the camp until it was forcibly closed in 1984, at which time Dink turned to a career in journalism.

Within a year of Hrant's death, Rakel set up the Hrant Dink Foundation. Its mission: working to end discrimination of all kinds, promoting inter-cultural dialogue and respect for cultural diversity. It publishes reports, runs workshops and monitors hate speech in the Turkish press. Its annual Hrant Dink Award is among the most high profile human rights awards in Turkey, given to one Turkish and one international figure each year. The recipients are broad ranging: in 2015 it was granted to Kaos GL, an organisation that promotes LGBTI rights in Turkey, and to Samar Badawi, a Saudi Arabian women's rights activist. In 2014 it was given to Şebnem Korur Financı, a forensic scientist who disclosed torture in Turkey and the Yugoslav war in the 1990s, and Angie Zelter, a British peace campaigner.

Hrant Dink's killers had intended to extinguish his dream of a world without discrimination and hatred. Through the Foundation, Rakel Dink is making sure they do not succeed.


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