A Dutch journalist of Turkish origin has faced a systematic campaign of threats including death by what appears to be fans of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against the background of a recent row between Turkey and Netherlands.
Hakan Büyük, a 29-year old journalist, has quickly become a target when he recalled mass rights violations that take place in Turkey which resulted in jailing of some 50,000 people in the last seven months as part of Turkish government crackdown on Kurdish political movement and Gülen movement. Some of the chilling messages he received on Twitter included threats like “you’ll be murdered”, “we’ll shoot you at the head”, and “one day we’ll get you and draw blood from you”.
Büyük, an editor at Zaman Vandaag newspaper, was trying to expose hypocrisy on the part of Turkish government that decried barring of Turkish ministers by Netherlands government on political rallies in Dutch cities while Ankara pursues a witch-hunt against critics and opponents, dismissing 135,000 people from government jobs, and jailing 200 journalists on trumped-up charges.
The journalist filed four criminal complaint with authorities in Netherlands over death threats and filed another one on Wednesday. He was featured in Stockholm Center for Freedom’s (SCF) last month report titled “Erdoğan’s Long Arm in Europe: The Case of the Netherlands” which exposed Turkish government profiling, harassment activities in Netherlands which led to physical assaults and arson attempts against Turkish president’s critics.
He told SCF before that “They [pro-Erdogan groups] portrayed me as a CIA agent or a terrorist. I received threats on Twitter. They sent me a photo of a dead bloodstained woman. ‘Your end will be like this,’ they wrote beneath it.”
Threats against journalist intensified when the Netherlands and Turkey are locked in a heated political row when the former blocked two Turkish ministers from speaking at political rallies in Netherlands citing security concerns. President Erdoğan and other Turkish officials lashed out at Dutch government, comparing the government of the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Nazis, Mussolini, Franco and even North Korean regimes.
Germany, France, and Austria expressed their support for the Netherlands in this matter while the presidents of the European Union and European Commission also spoke out against Turkey which will hold a referendum on April 16 on a constitutional reform package that will give immense powers to president Erdoğan.
A Twitter used with handle name Sancaktar wrote on March 12 that “there will be no arrest [for you], you’ll be killed”.
Another user identified as Hüseyin Tarık Aydın wrote “The dog of FETÖ, you think you will be at ease in the Netherlands, wait in a fear.” FETÖ is a hate speech term used by Turkish government to refer the Gülen movement which is inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen who has been advocating science education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and community contribution.
Gülen has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and autocratic President Erdoğan on massive corruption in the government as well as Turkey’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. Erdoğan launched an unprecedented persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdoğan’s family members.
The ruling Islamist leaders labelled the movement as ‘FETÖ’, a terrorist organization, although Gülen, 75-year old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism and terror in the name of religion.
Since Büyük works at Zaman Vandaag, a newspaper seen as affiliated with Gülen movement, he has become a target of Erdogan’s supporters. A user with a Twitter handle “_Action_ss” told him on March 12 that “One day, we’ll get you. We’ll draw blood.”
Another user named “Habip” recalled notorious Turkish gangster Abdullah Çatlı who was dispatched by Turkish government in 80s and 90s as a hitman. He wrote that “If we do not send Çatlıs to shoot these sons of bitches from the head at the center of Europe, even Holland would challenge us.” These threats were also covered by Dutch network RTL Nieuws.
The threats against Büyük continued on March 13 with a user named “Since 1453” writing that “Don’t worry, my expats in Holland know what to do! You’ll be slapped by an Ottoman smack, not sure if you can live afterwards????”
Another Twitter user with a handle “cc1453” wrote “We failed to hang the dogs of FETO, this is our shortcoming.”
A user that goes by the name “Kaçak Temmuz” told Büyük that he may come back to Turkey one day when his relatives got sick. The user then said “we’ll see you then.”
Turkish journalist was also threatened with a bodily harm to his relatives back in Turkey. A user with a handle “Don’t you have any family member, relative in Turkey? You dog, I’ll send their photos to you with women and children excluded.”
Talking to SCF, Büyük said most threats originate from Turkey and naturally Dutch police cannot do anything other than making a report about these. He said Dutch authorities continue to investigate threats that come from people in the Netherlands and the investigation is still pending.
Stressing that he has never insulted anybody other than voicing his criticisms as part of exercise his freedom of speech and expression, Büyük vowed to continue writing truth and facts even if these bothers Turkish government and its supporters. “Turkey deserves better,” he lamented.
March 16, 2017