Turkish social media has been filled with posts since Thursday targeting Tallha Abdulrazaq, a British-Iraqi journalist who attacked the opposition’s presidential candidate over his religious identity.
“May the mere memory of Sultan Selim keep your cult from power,” Abdulrazaq wrote on Twitter on Thursday in response to presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who in a video talked about his Alevi faith.
Abdulrazaq was referring to Ottoman Sultan Selim I, known as Selim the Grim or Selim the Resolute, who launched a vigorous campaign into western Anatolia in the 16th century to crush the Alevi population.
Following Abdulrazaq’s tweet, some Turkish users replied to him, accusing Abdulrazaq of hate speech and of encouraging the annihilation of Turkey’s Alevi population as Selim is also known as “the executioner of Alevis”. Those on social media also called on others to report Abdulrazaq for hate speech so as to push Twitter to take down his post.
The social media outrage escalated after users found out that Abdulrazaq is affiliated with Turkish public broadcaster TRT World as a frequent commentator.
In response, Abdulrazaq doubled down with offensive and discriminatory remarks calling some users “Kemalist scum” and infidels.
Later on Thursday, TRT World announced that Abdulrazaq was not a staff member working for them, calling the British Iraqi someone who works as a commentator for many prestigious international outlets, including the Washington Post and Al Jazeera.
Journalist Nick Ashdown countered TRT’s claims, proving that Abdulrazaq’s name appeared 136 times on TRT World’s website and sharing some of the articles written by the journalist.
People trying to search Abdulrazaq’s articles for TRT World found out that his author page had been deleted.
In his Twitter bio, Abdulrazaq calls himself a war journalist and a British-Iraqi academic, and lists the Washington Post, Al Jazeera English, The Independent, National Interest, Middle East Institute, and Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defence and Security Studies as his by-lines. He also produces The War Journal podcast and website, which he claims is “a venue for fearless discussion & analysis of the pressing issues of the Muslim world.”
“In response to questions about Mr. Abdulrazaq’s connection to the Middle East Institute (MEI), he is not, and never has been, affiliated with the Institute,” the Washington-based think tank announced on Twitter.
“Sultan Selim is the symbol of Alevi annihilation. I would like to report that this person is not affiliated with @MiddleEastInst. At MEI, we dont advocate murdering politicians. @DrTalAbdulrazaq please remove Middle East Institute from your bylines,” wrote Gönül Too, the director of MEI.
“I didn’t advocate murdering a politician, you libellous idiot. Retract that statement and apologise before you worry about my publication record,” Abdulrazaq wrote in response.
“We are aware of the post made earlier today by Tallha Abdulrazaq. His only association with RUSI is a journal article he co-authored a number of years ago. We don’t wish to be named in his profile and condemn the views expressed today,” RUSI announced on its Twitter account.
Despite the two institution’s comments, MEI and RUSI are still listed in Abdulrazaq’s bylines in his Twitter bio.
Abdulrazaq’s War Journal Twitter account, which he previously used as his personal account, has been cleared of some covertly pro-ISIS posts where he claimed that reports of the group’s persecution of Yazidi people were exaggerated.
Abdulrazaq is also cited as a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute. Following the outrage on social media, his profile page in the university’s web site seems to have stopped working.