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An excerpt from the letter I sent to Erik Renström, the Vice-Chancellor of Lund University, on January 25, 2023


On June 1, 2020, your employee posted a series of nine tweets on Turkish Twitter together with an excerpt of the document given by the Faculty of Social Sciences in June 2018. In these tweets, your employee claimed that she has been exposed to continuous harassment for 2,5 years, misleadingly presenting the university’s decision as a legally binding document, a punishment and a disciplinary measure. As it became clear within a few hours, this was a premeditated and well-coordinated move, building on the ongoing campaign of online harassment. My name was not mentioned as such, but the information provided was of such a nature that it was not difficult to identify me; hence it did not take long for my name to be mentioned openly by several Twitter users — some of them close friends of your employee. The tweets, deliberately couched in the language of #MeToo, went viral: the first tweet of the series was retweeted or commented on 1.100 times and got 3.400 “likes”.

It is important to pause here for a moment and recall Lund University’s official guideline regarding “Handling and Investigating Cases of Harassment and Sexual Harassment” which states that “In order to protect the affected parties you have the possibility to apply a confidentiality procedure when registering documents. This means that the case can only be shown to the administrators of the document registration system”. I made this request several times, from March 22, 2018 onwards, the day the original complaint was filed. Unfortunately, the decision and other documents related to the psycho-social investigation have been shared with anybody but me, including a news platform followed by millions of people — by an administrator who was supposed to apply the confidentiality procedure no less.

As befits the broader dynamics of social media, and thanks to the purposefully vague or misleading information provided by your employee, the false allegation of “stalking” soon morphed into “harassment” and “sexual harassment”, and I was branded a “serial sexual harasser” and a “perpetrator of violence” (at the peak of the campaign, I was even accused of being a “potential killer” who may have killed your employee had she not gone public). The campaign soon travelled to other social media platforms, notably Facebook, and spilled over to my family.

On June 2 and 3, 2020, your employee interacted with two academics, Selim Sazak and Burak Kadercan, and a journalist, Funda Dörtkaş, who identified me, confirming once again that I was the target of her accusations. These Twitter exchanges continued in the following days. My name became a “trending topic“ on Turkish Twitter briefly. At this point, I started getting death threats. And my friends and acquaintances have also been exposed to online harassment.

On June 4, 2020, pro-government media joined the pile-on. My name and pictures were all over newspapers, online news platforms, private and public TV stations. Journalists and academics affiliated with the Turkish government accused me of being a “terrorist” affiliated with the movement led by the Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen who is held responsible for the failed coup attempt against the AKP government in 2016. Sweden took its share of the accusations, of course, and was blamed for failing to protect a victim of harassment. Given the severity of the charges, I decided not to go to Turkey to visit my family since hundreds of thousands of people allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement have been imprisoned.

On June 5, 2020, the Turkish Republic Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office started an official investigation about the allegations (investigation number 2020.169957). This investigation was widely reported in pro-government media. Your employee did not comment on or distance herself from the investigation.

The same day, an anonymous user wrote a tweet in Spanish about the allegations and tagged my current employer. Two other institutions I was affiliated with were contacted via email and several co-workers in Spain have been subject to peer pressure to stop collaborating with me.

Again the same day, the student (and friend of your employee) posted a Twitter thread accusing me of “sexually harassing” her, tampering with the university’s decision to create the impression that there was a separate decision against me.

The night of June 5, 2020, I published a public statement prepared by my lawyers in Turkey, and categorically denied all the allegations. In this statement, I also filled in the gaps purposefully omitted by your employee, e.g. that this campaign was related to a relationship which ended bitterly, that I was forced to withdraw from an EU project based on my original idea, that we had a functioning personal and professional relationship during the time she accused me of “stalking” (she was using my car; asking me to pay her bills from my bank account — in return for cash; introduced me to her mother visiting from Turkey, and so on).

On June 6, 2020, your employee lashed back at my public statement, denying that we ever had a relationship, and that I “forced” her into a relationship under the guise of helping her to move to Sweden and began “harassing” her when she said “no”. There is no need to dwell much on the merit of these claims given the public nature of our relationship which started in April 2017 and went on until November 2017 (and mentioned in all relevant official documents).

On June 8, 2020, your employee sent the above-mentioned letter to the European Commission.

On June 26, 2020, the campaign was carried to a whole new level with the publication of statement by your employee’s new lawyers, Selin Nakıpoğlu, Yelda Koçak, Funda Ekin, Diren Cevahir Şen (all well-known feminist activists) who claimed — incorrectly — that the state prosecutor in Sweden launched an investigation upon the complaint of your employee. In this statement, I was also accused of perpetrating “violence” against their clients.

On August 6, 2020, we made a second public announcement and published a small sample of documents which refuted your employee’s and her lawyers’ claims, including the most recent statement that I was being investigated in Sweden. Since I was subject to what is often referred to “trial by social media” and presumed to be guilty, the media ignored this announcement and the broader public continued to assume that the allegations were true.

The consequences of this defamation campaign were devastating. Dozens of interviews and op-eds were published on what was widely considered to be “Turkish academia’s #MeToo moment”; this was followed by debates, podcasts and vlogs on both pro-government and independent media outlets where I was misleadingly presented as a “convicted criminal”. 488 academics from Turkey signed a petition called “Stop masculinist academia”, first published on June 25, 2022. My Wikipedia entry was amended to include a section called “Controversies” where I was presented as a “sexual harasser”. And the Arab television broadcaster Al-Jazeera contacted your employee, asking her if she wanted to do an op-ed regarding “her experience of harassment”.

The spill over to my family was worse. First, the publisher of the book on my son’s struggle with cancer contacted me and said that they cannot publish the book anymore, given the nature of the allegations. Second, the Swedish producer and Danish director of the documentary we were shooting on the different ways in which we, as a family, were coping with grief had to cancel the project (the cancellations of these projects took place over the phone and online meetings; testimonies available upon request). Third, several social media users besmirched the memory of my dead son. The above-mentioned journalist, Funda Dörtkaş, who had written a piece on my son in the wake of his death shared the following tweet:

Sorry for intervening, but as I told [your employee], I had written an article after [his son’s] death without knowing any of this. From what I’ve learned yesterday and today, I understand that our sensitivity to his health issue has also been exploited. Over a child. This was neither the first harassment nor the last.

Some went so far as to claim that the money we raised through a crowd funder we organized in 2016 was spent on legal expenses. This was what a user wrote to Ekşi Sözlük, the Turkish equivalent of Urban Dictionary:

The academic whom I followed on social media during his son Luca’s fight with neuroblastoma and whose suffering I shared like thousands of others. I have even made a modest contribution to the campaign he launched to take his son to a trial, so did my friends. They announced that they would donate the money to children’s cancer foundations if the treatment fails or if they couldn’t take him to the trial for some reason. Now I am hearing he’s been harassing all these women by even manipulating his son’s condition; this is chilling me out and I cannot help but thinking, did they donate the money? Even though I’ve been following him regularly, I don’t recall a statement as to how this money has been used. When I read the allegations, I keep thinking. I hope he really donated the money. But I also think that if he had, he would have announced it. The other alternative is too horrifying to think. (That the money was donated to Barncancerfonden had been announced in the wake of his death.)

On November 12, 2020, we filed a civil suit against your employee for defamation and gross defamation.