Turkish nationalists threaten academic at German university

A Turkish academic working at Essen University has received threats after he supported a documentary which said Turkey had bought poisonous gas from the Nazi government to suppress an insurgency, Artı Gerçek reported on Friday.

Political scientist Burak Çopur started receiving threats after he posted a message on social media backing the claims in the documentary broadcast by Germany’s ARD television.

Turkish nationalists began sending messages to Essen University and asking the institution to terminate Çopur’s contract after he made the post, Artı Gerçek said. 

“I have from time to time received threats in my academic life due to my opposing views. But a systematic and intentional campaign was launched against me after I made comments about the Dersim massacre in the ARD documentary,” the academic said. 

Turkey purchased the poisonous gas from Germany’s Nazi Party government to use during an uprising in the eastern province of Dersim in 1938, according to the documentary. 

Çopur said he had received threats from both far-right and secular nationalists. While Çopur plans to file legal complaint against the threats, Essen University said in a statement that the campaign aimed to attack Çopur’s freedom of expression and to put pressure on academics. 

The Dersim massacre is a painful chapter in Turkish history, in which the military responded to an insurrection by massacring Alevi Kurds – both rebels and civilians – through aerial bombings and firing squads, obliterating entire villages. Reports on the number of casualties differ, but most reliable estimates say tens of thousands were killed.

Dersim was renamed as Tunceli (“land of bronze”) as part of the Turkish government’s program of Turkification.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Berlin branch slammed the ARD documentary saying that the military operation in 1938 was not against the Alevis but against insurgents, Artı Gerçek said.