Founded by Hrant Dink and his friends in 1996, Armenian daily newspaper Agos defined its mission as to reclaim linguistic, cultural and historical values that make up the Armenian identity, pass them on to next generations, learn about Armenians living in Turkey and integrate them into society, get their issues on the public agenda in Turkey and find solutions to their problems. Agos is an important milestone, because it is the first newspaper that has been published both in Turkish and Armenian in the Republican period. In 1999, Agos moved its offices to the Sebat Apartment Building located in Osmanbey, Istanbul. Over time, the office has become an important gathering place for Armenians from Turkey and abroad, other minority members, researchers, students and journalists. Agos represented a hope for a more democratic Turkey. Moreover, as Agos published on issues about Armenians and other minorities in Turkey that have been rendered invisible, and about the suffering after 1915 and its contemporary effects, it encouraged all groups that demand the development and implementation of policies against human rights violations faced by all minority groups.
Hrant Dink, who was the editor-in-chief of Agos since its establishment, had been the target of hate speech in the national press because of his articles and several court cases had been filed against him since 2004.A news report on Ataturk’s adopted daughter and Turkey’s first female combat pilot Sabiha Gökçen published in Agos’s February 6, 2004 issue with Dink’s signature was the starting point for the intense period of court cases even though this article never became a court case. Titled ‘Sabiha Hatun’s secret’, the news report stated that Gökçen was of Armenian origin and had relatives in Armenia. Armenian citizen Hripsime Sebilcian Gazalian from Antep claimed that Gökçen was an Armenian orphan adopted from an orphanage and that she was her niece.
Following the publication of this news report, the Secretary General of Turkish General Staff issued a strongly-worded statement. Right after this, Hrant Dink was called to the Istanbul Governorate and given a warning in the presence of members of the National Intelligence Organization. Furthermore, Hrant Dink became a target of a right-wing media campaign with the accusation that “Hrant Dink denigrated the Turkish identity” along with some excerpts which were carefully selected from an eight-part article series. In the court case launched against Dink for ‘publicly insulting and degrading Turkishness,’ even though the experts’ report stated that there was nothing that would constitute a crime, Hrant Dink was given a six-month prison sentence. In the first hearing of the court case, nationalist groups chanted slogans of hate and threat and threw coins and pens to Hrant Dink and his lawyers. Besides, a couple of newspapers continued to target Dink and Agos. Lastly, Dink was charged with ‘denigrating Turkishness’ as per Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code because of the article titled ‘1 Vote against 301’ published in the July 21, 2006 issue of Agos. Following a period during which he had been the target of nationalists’ threats, the protests of nationalist groups using threats and hate speech, as well as court cases, Hrant Dink was shot to death in front of the Sebat Apartment Building on January 19, 2007.
Following the murder, which has sparked major protests, ten thousands of people marched with the slogan “We are all Armenians, we are all Hrant Dink.” Every year on January 19, large crowds continue to come together in front of the Sebat Apartment Building, which has become “a site of conscience” since that day, and call for the murder case to be solved and those involved to be punished, and demand justice for Hrant and all of us. Hrant Dink’s murder case is still ongoing.
Hrant Dink Foundation was founded in 2007 with the aim of continuing Hrant Dink’s struggle, contributing to the protection and development of human rights, minority rights and cultural rights to support non-nationalistic and non-racist historical research, and maintaining and introducing Armenian culture and history in Turkey. Since then, the offices of the Foundation and Agos located at the Sebat Apartment Building has become a popular stop on the route of diaspora Armenians who come to Anatolia to discover the lands of their forbearers.