During a week in which the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet has fought off three violent mobs at two of its headquarters, a rival columnist supportive of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened the life of Hurriyet writer Ahmet Hakan, noting that the AKP has “been merciful today and you are still alive,” but that can always change.
“We could crush you like a fly,” writes Cem Küçük in the Turkish newspaper Star of his fellow columnist. The column, titled “Portrait of a Schizophrenic and Pro-PKK Thief: Ahmet Hakan,” accuses Hakan of being a “propagandist” for the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a US-designated terrorist group. It accuses Hakan of writing as if the country were “still living in the days when Hurriyet was running the country,” and compares him to “schizophrenia patients.” “We have been merciful until today and you are still alive,” Küçük writes, including himself in the faction that supports Erdoğan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“Ahmet Hakan was the chief propagandist of the PKK before the June 7 election. Everyone knows it. The Turkish nation has recorded all of this treason and he will surely pay for it heavily,” Küçük concluded.
The column has caused enough controversy that Hurriyet reports Küçük took back some of his words on his Twitter account, claiming that “fake religious people” had attacked him and that he clearly meant “civic death” and not actual death, awaited Hakan for his political views.
Zaman, another newspaper critical of Erdoğan and the AKP, explains the background for the column: Hakan had appeared on CNN Türk earlier in the week, condemning AKP member of Parliament Abdurrahim Boynukalın, who had personally participated in a mob attack on Hurriyet‘s Ankara office earlier in the week. Zaman notes that Küçük has previously served as a chronicler of government opposition, even publishing a list of “suspects” in unexplained criminal activity that included journalists critical of Erdoğan.
Küçük’s article follows three attacks on Hurriyet. On Monday, a mob stoned the Ankara offices of the newspaper shouting “Allahu Akbar!” and attempting to break in and physically attack its employees. This is the attack in which Boynukalın participated, delivering an extemporaneous speech in which he vowed Erdoğan would remain president no matter what the November 1 parliamentary elections decided.
The second attacks occurred on Tuesday night at both the Ankara and Istanbul offices. In these, gunshots were heard, and the mob of Erdoğan supporters again threatened to kill the newspaper’s writers and editors. Hurriyet employees trapped in the buildings attested to the riot police being exceptionally slow in responding to their emergency call.
In addition to the attacks on Hurriyet, the head of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, reported that mobs had committed more than 400 attacks on HDP headquarters and known employees in the past two days. This has not stopped the pro-Erdoğan media from associating Demirtaş with the PKK—a claim he and his party have long denied. Yeni Şafak, a pro-AKP newspaper, illustrated a cover of theirs this week with Demirtaş’s face and the word “KILLER” in large letters, claiming he is to blame for PKK attacks on Turkish police and soldiers. Demirtaş is pursuing legal action against the newspaper.
In addition to the harassment of local journalists, the Turkish government has expanded its campaign to keep international journalists from interacting with the PKK. Most notably, two UK journalists working for Vice News were arrested for carrying notebooks with translated notes on the PKK in a region known for its Kurdish population. Another Dutch journalist is being deported this week for having ties to the PKK.