Kurdish journalist faces threats and intimidation for exposing controversial children's prayer event
A journalist from Turkey’s southeastern Batman province has faced threats and intimidation following the sharing of a video that documented around 3500 children, aged between 7 and 10, being taken for group prayers.
Journalist Bilal Guldem, a reporter with the Mezopotamya Agency (MA), revealed that he has started receiving threats after being singled out by an attorney associated with the islamist HUDAPAR party, identified as Bilal Cakir. Guldem had shared the video on his Twitter account, which was sent to him by a news source in Batman. that showed an event which was orchestrated by the Quran Generation Platform.
Görüntü Batman’dan pic.twitter.com/x2RSdbaVg0— Bilal Güldem (@BilalGuldem) September 10, 2023
“After the publication of the video, a person named Bilal Cakir from HUDAPAR targeted me. Then the attack began. They downloaded my photo and wrote PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) over it. They are trying to illegalize me based on a case I was previously acquitted of. They are threatening me openly,” Guldem said in an interview with Turkey’s Bianet web site.
Guldem has documented the abusive and threatening messages and plans to file a criminal complaint.
The incident has evoked strong reactions from various quarters. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the threats against Guldem, with RSF representative Erol Onderoglu stating, “We are astounded to see a video about children being taken to prayer in Batman being used to jeopardize the safety of the journalist who published it. It is even more grave if a lawyer is the one targeting the journalist. We condemn this.”
Support also poured in from the Dicle Firat Journalists Association (DFG) and the DISK Basin-Is union. DFG, in their statement, highlighted the seriousness of the situation, especially considering the involvement of remnants and supporters of a group known for committing massacres under the guise of religion in the 90s. DISK Basin-Is noted that using methods reminiscent of the dark forces of the 90s to threaten a journalist is unacceptable.
The Quran Generation Platform, which organizes a 15-day prayer program for children in various cities every year in August, had recently held the same event in Batman. The program, which lasted for 15 days, included prayer training for around 3500 children aged between 7 and 10, with boys being made to wear caps and girls having their heads covered. Notable attendees at the event included HUDAPAR Batman MP Serkan Ramanli and HUDAPAR Batman Provincial Chairman Davut Sahin.