A Dutch journalist of Turkish origin has faced a systematic campaign of threats including death from what appears to be fans of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against the background of a recent row between Turkey and the Netherlands, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported.
Hakan Büyük, a 29-year-old journalist, quickly became a target when he recalled mass rights violations taking place in Turkey that have resulted in the jailing of some 50,000 people in the last seven months as part of a Turkish government crackdown on the Kurdish political movement and the Gülen movement. Some of the chilling messages he received on Twitter included threats such as “You’ll be murdered,” “We’ll shoot you in the head” and “One day we’ll get you and draw blood.”
Büyük, an editor at the Zaman Vandaag newspaper, was trying to expose hypocrisy on the part of the Turkish government that decried the barring of Turkish ministers by the Netherlands government from holding political rallies in Dutch cities while Ankara is pursuing a witch-hunt against critics and opponents, dismissing 135,000 people from government jobs and jailing 200 journalists on trumped-up charges.
The journalist had filed four criminal complaints with authorities in the Netherlands over the death threats and filed another one on Wednesday. He was featured last month in SCF’s report titled “Erdoğan’s Long Arm in Europe: The Case of the Netherlands,” which exposed Turkish government profiling and harassment activities in the Netherlands, leading to physical assaults and arson attempts against critics of the Turkish president.
He told SCF that “[t]hey [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 the journalist intensified as the Netherlands and Turkey became locked in a heated political row when The Hague blocked two Turkish ministers from speaking at political rallies in the Netherlands, citing security concerns. President Erdoğan and other Turkish officials lashed out at the Dutch government, comparing the government of the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the Nazi, Mussolini, Franco and North Korean regimes.
Germany, France, and Austria expressed their support for the Netherlands, 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 user with handle 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 fear.” FETÖ is a hate speech term used by the Turkish government to refer to the Gülen movement, which is inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen, who advocates science education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and community contribution.
Gülen has been a vocal critic of the Turkish government and autocratic President Erdoğan over 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 immediately after a major corruption probe that implicated Erdoğan’s family members.
The ruling Islamist leaders labeled the movement as “FETÖ,” a terrorist organization, although Gülen, a 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 the Twitter handle Action_ss told him on March 12 that “[o]ne day, we’ll get you. We’ll draw blood.”
Another user named Habip recalled notorious Turkish gangster Abdullah Çatlı, who was dispatched by the Turkish government in the ’80s and ’90s as a hitman. He wrote that “if we do not send these Çatlıs to shoot these sons of bitches in the head at the center of Europe, even Holland will 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, “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 the 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 might come back to Turkey one day when his relatives get sick. The user then said, “We’ll see you then.”
The Turkish journalist was also threatened with bodily harm to his relatives back in Turkey. “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 the Dutch police cannot do anything other than file a report about them. He said Dutch authorities continue to investigate threats that come from people in the Netherlands.
Stressing that he has never insulted anybody other than voicing his criticism as part of an exercise of his freedom of speech and expression, Büyük vowed to continue writing truth and fact even if they bother the Turkish government and its supporters. “Turkey deserves better,” he lamented.