A Turkish academic researcher who gave Abdullah Gül a hard time during a speech he gave at Harvard University this summer back when he was president has said he has received dozens of threats and was also accused of being a member of a terrorist organization in Turkey in an anonymous e-mail sent to his colleagues.
Emrah Altındiş, who was a research fellow in microbiology and immunobiology at Harvard Medical School, challenged Gül after he finished giving a speech at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government on May 30.
Altındiş had asked Gül how he could sleep at night after thousands of people had suffered due to a harsh police crackdown on the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 and how the then-president was not ashamed of delivering lessons on democracy.
In remarks published on Monday by the Hürriyet daily, the fellow said that colleagues in his department at Harvard received a 19-page anonymous letter in July claiming that Altındiş was a member of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). The letter also said he is a security threat to everyone at the department as well as their families.
“It was clear from the many details it gave about the organization that it was written by people who know about the sensitivity of an average American about terrorism,” said Altındiş.
According to Altındiş, an examination of the e-mail showed that it was sent from an IP address in Ankara, although the identity of the sender is not known. He also said he has never had any link with the DHKP/C, dismissing the accusations in the e-mail as “absurd claims seeking vengeance” for his question to Gül.
“Law and politics were always intertwined in Turkey, but during the term of the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party], law turned into a sharp sword used against opponents,” he said.
“They can depict me as being linked to an illegal organization that I have never had and will never have any relationship with and prosecute me. Whether they will risk [causing] such a scandal, we will see.”
Altındiş also said his colleagues at Harvard, except for a few who he said could not understand the motive behind the e-mail, showed their support for him in the face of “this attack.”
He has since begun to work at Joslin Diabetes Center, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
He said he has received about a hundred messages full of threats or insults. “Some contain racist rants like ‘Armenian spawn,’ ‘Greek spawn,’ or ‘Jewish spawn,’ phrases like ‘You cannot be a Turk’ or ‘traitor.’ Some contain insults saying I humiliated my country,” Altındiş said of the messages, adding that others contained death threats like “We will find you,” or “We’ll not let you live.”
“We don’t know yet what part of this death threat campaign is organized by the state and what part belongs to private individuals, therefore we cannot determine the seriousness of the risk,” Altındiş said. “But there is a very deep-rooted tradition of a deep state in Turkey. And, therefore, one thinks of every possibility.”