Death threats against fatih akin: turkish nationalists on the rise

Because his new film is about the Armenian genocide, Fatih Akin is being threatened by Turkish nationalists. They are encouraged from the very top.

Couldn’t find actors for his film: Fatih Akin. Picture: ap

Anyone familiar with the subject understands immediately: "We are watching this with our white caps," reads the tweet of the Turkish nationalist magazine otuken. And more concretely: This message is an "open threat to Agos, Armenian fascists and so-called intellectuals." Agos is an Armenian-Turkish weekly from Istanbul, and by intellectuals the right-wing extremists mean the German-Turkish director Fatih Akin. A white cap was worn by the minor who shot Hrant Dink in broad daylight on January 19, 2007. The editor-in-chief of Agos, who was of Armenian descent, was murdered because he was campaigning for a reappraisal of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians in World War I.

Akin had been trying to find a Turkish actor for his next film. Which shouldn’t really be a problem; the director is also a star in Turkey. Akin wanted to make a film of Dink’s life. "But I couldn’t convince any Turkish actor to play the role of Hrant Dink," the filmmaker told Agos in an interview last week.

Actors felt the script was too "dramatic," cancelled for fear of nationalists. "That’s why I had to abandon the project," said Akin, who also had not wanted to put anyone in danger, finding: Turks would have to "deal with this matter themselves," but apparently the time was not yet ripe for that. Still, Akin didn’t want to let go of the subject altogether. The world premiere of his film "The Cut" is planned for the 71st International Film Festival in Venice in August. And this tells the story of an Armenian who survived the massacre and sets out to find his daughter.

Although the main role is played by Frenchman Tahar Rahim – but Akin’s interview and the announcement of "The Cut" were enough to provoke the nationalists. "This film will not be shown in a single cinema in Turkey," otuken tweeted in response. He said the film was "a first of several steps to make Turkey accept the lie of the Armenian genocide." The left-liberal online newspaper Radikal then asked, "Will Fatih Akin end up like Hrant Dink?"

Insulted as "Armenian"

An estimated one and a half million Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923. But in Turkey hardly anything is fought against more than the word "genocide", the dead were only a consequence of the settlement policy, they say. Armenians and most of the historical research see it differently.

One could let these tweets disappear into the summer void, but what is troubling is the fact that the nationalists are getting backing from the very top. He has been called a "Georgian," but "worse," also an "Armenian," the anti-government Today’s Zaman quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying.

He is likely to be elected president on Sunday. And to name just two more examples of his nationalist policies: In 2011, the most powerful man in the state had a reconciliation monument on the Armenian-Turkish border torn down. He criticized it as monstrous. And in 2011, when the U.S. Congress was considering a genocide resolution to persecute Armenians, Erdogan threatened, "Currently, 170,000 Armenians live in our country. Only 70,000 are Turkish citizens, but we tolerate the other 100,000. If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don’t have to keep them in my country." The message got through: The resolution was not brought to a vote in the U.S. Congress under pressure from Ankara.

And such words, above all, also strengthen the Turkish extremists in their agitation, therefore no one should feel safe. "Yes, I may feel restless like a pigeon, but I know that in this country no one will harm a pigeon," Hrant Dink wrote in his last article. A short time later he was dead.

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