I can’t recognize my own home country anymore. The Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, finally blocked Twitter today, the “thing” he affectionately called a “menace to society” during the Gezi Park protests. Privacy violations of Turkish citizens were cited as the reason.
Once a secular and democratic republic, Turkey has rapidly degenerated into a police state at the hands of the right-wing Islamic government. It is during its reign that the mainstream media has been bought and incapacitated by government-friendly entities.
Even Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric who was once Erdogan’s biggest allies, has observed that Erdogan’s crackdown is worse than any of the military coups that Turkey has ever experienced.
At the same time, Turkey’s ties to the West have fostered a youth culture savvy in the ways of the Internet and fluent in the sensibilities and values of the Western cultures. For this new generation, the Internet is increasingly becoming a robust platform against government censorship.
Perhaps the most vibrant example of this occurred during the recent Gezi Park protests that erupted when the government decided to build a shopping mall to replace a city park. When the mainstream media outlets in Turkey were silenced by the government, citizens live broadcasted the police brutality over the Internet.
Then last December, Erdogan’s cabinet was exposed in the worst grafting scandal in Turkish history. Incriminating tape recordings were leaked, shoe boxes full of money were discovered etc… The government quickly passed Internet censorship laws to ensure that no further incriminating evidence would be leaked. To no avail.
And now this. How do you declare war on the Internet and expect to win? Thankfully, Twitter has offered an SMS workaround. Alternative DNS numbers with which to access the Internet were spray painted on buildings and written on tips. The end result: everyone (including government agencies) is online.
I am hopeful. Turkey has never been more interesting to me than it is today.
I am hopeful because I suspect that it is in this political climate that the digital rights movement in Turkey will gain momentum. The signs are already out there. While hacker groups like Red Hack are working with Anonymous and engaging in illegal activities/leaks to ensure a transparent state, the Pirate Party of Turkey is advancing the agenda of freedom of the Internet and advocating civil liberties online.
Here is the TL.DR. recap of what happened on Twitter.
Elections are nigh. Stay tuned.