This small city on the Black Sea coast is getting used to being in the headlines – for all the wrong reasons. Over the past two years, Trabzon – best known for its successful professional soccer team, nicknamed the Black Sea Storm – has been front and center in a series of events that have shocked Turkey.
Last week, a local teenager confessed to firing the gun that killed Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, whose murder has had repercussions well beyond Turkey's borders.
Almost a year ago, a 16-year-old shot and killed an Italian priest who was working in a Trabzon church. In May 2005, four students passing out pamphlets about prison conditions were almost killed by an angry mob of 2,000 who thought they were Kurdish activists.
With the murder of Mr. Dink – whose funeral procession in Istanbul Tuesday was joined by tens of thousands – Turks inside and outside Trabzon are now trying to figure out if something has gone dreadfully wrong in the city.
"For the past 20 years, the politicians have been pumping nationalism and chauvinism into Trabzon," says Gultekin Yucesan, head of the local branch of the Human Rights Association, a Turkish watchdog group.
"I wasn't surprised to find out he was from Trabzon," he says about Ogun Samast, the 17-year-old accused of Dink's murder. "There are hundreds of other kids like Ogun Samast in Trabzon right now."
Long known as a bastion of nationalism, Trabzon has seen hard times in recent decades. Once an important commercial port, it is today more known for the sex trade that brings women from the former Soviet Union into Turkey. Unemployment in the city is high, while the countryside around Trabzon, long dependent on hazelnut crops, has seen its market go from boom to bust.