PHILADELPHIA – October 22, 2023 – The Middle East Forum sadly reports the unexpected death yesterday of Burak Bekdil. A Turkish journalist, he was the Middle East Forum’s Charles Wax Writing Fellow. Tweets from several informed journalists indicate he died from injuries sustained in a traffic accident.
Born in Ankara in 1966, Bekdil worked for twenty-nine years at Hürriyet, a leading Turkish daily newspaper, until his firing for fearless coverage of Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s anti-Western, anti-Israel, and pro-Russian actions. He also covered Turkey for Defense News since 1997, was previously Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e TV, and wrote for the Gatestone Institute. He earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara and attended graduate school in economics at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom.
Bekdil’s final reporting exposed the mendacity and cynicism of Erdoğan’s initial calls for mutual restraint from Israelis and Gazans in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas massacre of 1,400 Israelis. In a two-part series published October 10 and 13, he quoted copiously from Turkey’s top newspapers and news stations and Erdoğan himself to demonstrate that Erdoğan’s “fanatical anti-Israel legacy” had “poisoned an already xenophobic society.” Israel, said Erdoğan, is “behaving like a [terrorist] organization, not like a state.” In like spirit, media outlets claimed that “Zionists targeted journalists.”
Such unvarnished reporting would make Bekdil stand out anywhere. In Turkey, which has imprisoned the most journalists of any country, it signaled remarkable bravery and truth-telling. He will be sorely missed.