Thug Life: U.S. Prosecutor in Reza Zarrab Arrest is the New Turkish Twitter Superstar

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Thug Life: U.S. Prosecutor in Reza Zarrab Arrest is the New Turkish Twitter Superstar

The Turkish Twittersphere is at it again with the latest internet sensation; and no, it’s not a pop-star’s latest music video or an adorable cat clip- it’s actually the American prosecutor Preet Bharara who pressed for the indictment and arrest of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab.

Zarrab was arrested in Miami on March 19 during a family vacation, and he is set to go on trial for the charges of conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, Money Laundering and Bank Fraud.

Zarrab became a hot topic in the Turkish political scene in 2013 when he was implicated in a large scale government corruption scandal. Zarrab was detained for two months at the time but the charges against him were dropped as the then Prime Minister Erdoğan accused the prosecutors in the case of conspiring against the government. The prosecutors, along with other high-ranking police and security officials were removed from their posts; accused of trying to establish a parallel government under the direction of religious leader Fethullah Gülen.

Turkish observers were stunned when Zarrab’s arrest was announced by the U.S. Department of Justice, a figure who seemed for so long untouchable by the law. But for the Turkish public, and especially, it appears, for the Turkish Twittersphere, the real hero of the story is U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The New-York based prosecutor, whose twitter account used to have around 2K followers gained over 200K followers almost overnight; and most of his new followers are Turkish accounts. Bharara’s twitter account has been flooded with messages of support and gratitude, as many Turkish observers see Bharara’s push for Zarrab’s indictment as achieving what the Turkish judicial system could not.

In fact, in classic Turkish style, some users even offered the prosecutor gifts for his service:


And then, of course, Prosecutor Bharara’s response went instantly viral:

Which stunned his Turkish fan-base even more:

“Wow, the guy can’t even accept a gift because of his humility. In that case someone should at least compile a Spotify playlist for this guy or something, he’s doing such a good job, it would be the righteous thing to do.”


Some users reassured the prosecutor, somewhat darkly, that “gift” giving is just a hallmark of Turkish culture:

“Don’t worry it’s not a bribe, it’s a gift, a gift, it’s a Turkish tradition. You tell him bro, @Egemanbagis”


I say somewhat darkly, because the @Egemanbagis user mentioned in the tweet is actually Parliamentarian Egeman Bağış, who was implicated in Zarrab corruption scandal, charged with accepting a 1.5 million dollar bribe while he was presiding over the Turkish Commission for the United Nations.

Other users appealed to the U.S. Prosecutor to get involved in other Turkish judicial rulings, hoping he could share a little more of his magic touch;

“You know, people in Turkey don’t really trust their judges or the rule of law. While you are up and at it, could you also add thieves, murderers and perverts to your list?”


Another Turkish user appealed to Bharara for legal counsel as well:

“Dear respected brother, here is what happened. This Gökçek character was using “Armenian” as a cuss word against everyone, so I called him an Armenian, and then I got taken to court!”


This user is actually Hayko Bağdat, the journalist who was accused of libel against the Mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, for insulting him on twitter. According to the journalist with Armenian heritage, the real reason he is being accused of libel is because he has called the Mayor of Ankara an “Armenian.”

Other users took a more lighthearted approach to celebrate  #Bharara’s triumph:


Ok, that’s one’s actually also a dark nod to the accusations against Zarrab’s Turkish prosecutors that they were conspiring against the Turkish state and supporting a parallel government within the state under the direction of Gülen.

But how about these?

“The names of babies born today:
Boys: Preet
Girls: Bharara”


This one is also hilarious, of course:

And perhaps my personal favorite, a very competent use of the “Man hangs Turkish flag on balcony” meme:


That’s right, Mr. Preet Bharara, if you couldn’t already tell, Turkish Twitter really does love you?


Benjamin Bilgen

Bilgen, Benjamin, “Thug Life: U.S. Prosecutor in Reza Zarrab Arrest is the New Turkish Twitter Superstar”, Independent Turkey, 25 March 2016, London: Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey). Original link:



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