In March 2021, two Dutch scholars reported being intimidated, apparently as part of a campaign organized by a right-wing online activist group known as Vizier op Links.
According to the group’s mission, Vizier op Links is committed to breaking up the “left hegemony” by exposing “leftist” members of society and “mapping left-wing networks.” The anonymous group operates across Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, and Youtube, targeting public figures it deems “leftist” and revealing personal, sensitive information pertaining to the individuals online, a practice known as “doxxing.” On April 9, 2021, Twitter suspended the Vizier op Links account for violating the platform’s community guidelines.
On March 21, Nadia Bouras, a Leiden University professor specializing in Moroccan immigration to the Netherlands, tweeted a photo of a sticker left on the outside of her private home that read, “Observed location. This location is being observed by followers of Vizier op Links. Go to vizieroplinks.org to share tips and get a view of leftist activists.” Bouras called the event “not normal” and announced via Twitter that she had filed a report with the local police. Bouras described feeling intimidated and shocked by the act, and that it was frightening to her children.
Around a week before the group targeted Bouras’ home, Vizier op Links published online photos of historian Geert Mak’s home. Mak, who had recently given a televised lecture warning about the dangers of modern-day fascism, later allegedly received messages from “angry people” threatening to go to his home.
In addition to Bouras and Mak, Vizier op Links has also targeted judges, writers, politicians, and journalists through similar intimidation efforts.
The harassment described above followed national elections, in which a right-wing populist party known as Forum for Democracy took control of the upper house of parliament. After the election, the party established a “hotline” to expose left-wing biases on university campuses, according to Times Higher Education.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the harassment and intimidation of scholars for their academic expression, views, and opinions. In addition to the harm and personal risk to their targets, such threats undermine academic freedom and democratic society, and chill public expression by scholars more broadly. Where such threats occur, universities, law enforcement, and others must take available action to ensure the scholars’ safety and ability to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and academic freedom without fear of intimidation or harm.