Kurdish author on hit list targeting AKP critics in exile attacked in Wales

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Gökhan Yavuzel, a Kurdish writer in Wales whose name is on a hit list targeting critics of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government living in exile, was attacked in a park near his house in the capital city of Cardiff, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Monday.

Yavuzel, a member of PEN International who left Turkey in 2018 after receiving threats and finding himself the subject of smear campaigns, on Monday announced on Twitter that he was attacked by at least four people.

Sharing a photo showing himself with bandages on his face, the 29-year-old writer stated that he was dropped off at home after giving a statement to the police about the attack and that he had minor bruises on his back.

“To the sycophants who targeted us in the media by way of ‘hit lists,’ you will definitely pay for it,” Yavuzel said.

He revealed other details to Artı Gerçek, saying he was attacked in a blind spot in the park, fell to the ground with a punch to the back and was then hit in the back until he passed out.

“They were all swearing in Turkish. They made threats, saying, ‘Others’ turn will come.’ They shouted insults … and said, ‘We can kill all of you [on the hit list] if we want. You deserve worse than this.’ I was punched in the eye when I fell to the ground. I then got another punch to my left eyebrow. I protected my head with my hands,” Yavuzel stated.

Earlier this month, a pro-government social media account named “Jitemkurt” published a list of critics of the Turkish government living in Europe and North America whom they plan to assassinate. The account published the names of 21 journalists and writers resident in various countries and threatened to kill them. The name of the social media account refers to a group linked to the notorious gendarmerie intelligence unit JITEM.

Turkish media formerly reported that Yavuzel had spoken to the British police after finding out that he was one of the 21 people on the hit list revealed on social media who are critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP government. According to local media reports, the police told Yavuzel they were aware of the existence of such a hit list and that they would protect him.

Last week Celal Başlangıç, the editor-in-chief of Artı TV and the Artı Gerçek news website, announced that he was warned by the German police, who confirmed the existence of another list with the names of 55 critics of the Turkish government who live in exile -– including politicians and artists in addition to journalists and writers –- about his name being on it.

The warning came after an attack on Erk Acarer, a Turkish journalist critical of Erdoğan’s government who has been living in exile in Germany, in the courtyard of his apartment building in Berlin on June 7, led to widespread concerns about the safety of government critics abroad.

Meanwhile, Turkish media on Tuesday reported that Helmut Teichmann, state secretary of the German Interior Ministry, made an official statement about the hit lists for the first time in response to a parliamentary question posed by Left Party MP Helin Evrim Sommer. According to the reports, Teichmann said there appeared to be several lists that include the names of people critical of the Turkish government.

Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported that Teichmann’s statement also noted that the federal government currently didn’t have any concrete lists and that the investigation into the issue was expanding.

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