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MURAT YETKİN > Turkish Twitter users defy Erdoğan’s ban

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Murat Yetkin Murat Yetkin murat.yetkin@hdn.com.tr

Hours ago, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said in an election rally that he wanted to “root out” Twitter, no matter what the “international community” thought. An Ankara court then shut down the site to some 12 million Twitter accounts in Turkey.

The official reason from the PM’s press office was shown as the number of court cases opened by Turkish citizens against Twitter on the basis that they had been insulted.

The real reason could be quite different. Erdoğan has been getting more upset because of leaks of telephone tapped records of conversations between him and his family members, Cabinet members, media figures, and business figures, with lots of claims of corruption. This has been so ever since the graft probe started on Dec. 17, 2013, which has cost the resignations of four ministers to Erdoğan so far.

Instead of opening the judicial path to investigation of the corruption allegations, Erdoğan started to bash judges, prosecutors, policemen and social media for trying to stage a “coup” against him with manipulation from his former close ally Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident moderate Islamist scholar. It was then that the leaks started to cause so many headaches for the prime minister.

As Turkey approaches the March 30 local elections, Erdoğan and his close aides have started to worry about more leaks, which could affect the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) votes. Erdoğan first introduced more political control over judges and prosecutors, and then passed a law restricting the use of Internet, taking advantage of the AK Parti’s domination of Parliament.

But nobody expected that he would act so quickly and so strongly as to shut Twitter down completely.

Erdoğan had once promised to take the Turkish people into the European Union, or at least to the democratic standards of the EU, but with the latest ban he has put Turkey in the same league as North Korea, China and Iran.

However, hours after the ban most Turkish users were back on Twitter, using the ways and means of digital technology.

What’s more, to Erdoğan’s dismay, those rejoining Twitter and breaking the ban included Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek (a genuine Twitter addict).

President Abdullah Gül, who had “unwillingly” approved the recent Internet law, also broke the law, saying via his own Twitter account that he was against the ban.

Immediately after the ban went into effect, millions of Turkish Twitter users hit back, defying the restrictions and demonstrating that the walls of fear that Erdoğan is trying to build have started to fall apart.

March/21/2014

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