11 Kasım 2014 Salı

Discomfitting Question at Harvard Breeds Payback

turkce links to original Turkish article

(Hurriyet Newspaper, 10 November 2014)

    Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies...

Last May when then-President Abdullah Gul came to Harvard to give
a speech, a Harvard researcher named Dr. Emrah Altindis asked Gul
a question about the Gezi Park incidents.  After that, Altindis experienced
interesting incidents himself and suffered difficult days.  Altindis
received hundreds of messages containing threats and insults and the
professors in his section at Harvard were sent a baseless warning letter
claiming that Altindis was a terrorist. As a result, Altindis was
subjected to a long interrogation by U.S. police. Ultimately he
was cleared and has returned to normal life.

On 31 May 2014, Gul was at Harvard expounding on Turkish democracy.
Altindis got his turn to ask a question of Gul and referred to the first
anniversary of the Gezi Park incidents in Istanbul, where 6 people died
and hundreds were injured by the police.  In this regard, Altindis asked
Gul "while people are being killed in Turkey how can you sleep at

Altindas related to Hurriyet what happened to him after he asked that
question, as follows: "an email was sent to the professors in my section
on 17 July. It stated that I was a member of the terrorist group DHKP-C
and a very dangerous terrorist and that all of the email's recipients and
their families were in danger from me. The message was written by
someone who knew the average American's sensitivity to terrorism and
who knew details about DHKP-C. The email went to 30 people at once
and everyone there received it."

Altindas learned from his colleagues that the 19-page warning letter
contained photographs of himself. He noted that "right away I met
with lawyers in Boston whose expertise is free speech.  We also had
experts look at the internet origin of the letter and the IP address was
found to be in Ankara.  There was a name in the sender portion but it
was fake. We're not yet sure of the precise address from where it was
sent. I've never had any relationship whatsoever with DHKP-C or
any other illegal organization. These were all ridiculous revenge-based

"Even if a couple of people couldn't perceive the aim of the letter,
just about all of my colleagues came to me and expressed support.
They knew about the question I had asked Gul and understood why
this letter had been sent.  There were also about 100 threat and insult
messages sent to me from various addresses, calling me an 'Armenian,
Greek, or Jewish offspring' or a 'bloodless Kurd'. They said 'you can't
be a Turk!' 'you're a traitor to your country!' and 'you degraded our
nation!' There were also death threats like 'we'll find you.', 'we won't
let you live.' and 'you won't get away from us.'"

Altindis currently works at Harvard's Joslin Diabetic Center, in the
lab of Nobel-candidate Ronald Kahn. Asked whether he regretted
asking the question of Gul, Altindis replied that "I don't have the
slightest regret. If by asking it I gave the families of the Gezi victims
some relief then that's enough for me. And boldness is contagious.
We know this from Gezi and other democratic struggles. So many
people in Turkey are paying the price for democracy and freedom
what I've been through is no exception."

          Dr. Emrah Altindis in Boston.

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