Erdoğan is stealing people’s freedom

Erdoğan is stealing people’s freedom

It was during and immediately after last year’s Gezi protests that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) realized the importance of social media, and decided to establish a powerful social media team in order to suppress government opponents. There were reports that the party recruited thousands of people for a massive attack against government critics through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube messages, which often contained threats and intimidation.

Having already declared Twitter and social media as “menaces,” Erdoğan’s policy was lacking intelligence, creativity and content, which led to a total failure of the project. Well, he then did what any ordinary authoritarian leader would do and banned them.

Erdoğan’s move to block access to Twitter can only be described as stealing people’s freedoms. Turkey has 12 million Twitter users and is one of the leading countries in the use of social media, especially in a media environment where the government is exerting all of its efforts to undermine the freedom of the press. A majority of the Turkish media is biased and effectively acts as “Erdoğan’s Pravda,” while the remaining outlets are under huge pressure not to report corruption and graft claims associated with Erdoğan, his family and Cabinet members. Erdoğan had signaled that he was considering shutting down YouTube and Twitter two weeks ago, in order to stop the leaks of his phone conversations with his family members and businessmen, which are considered to be powerful evidence of his corrupt relations. But there are also rumors that the worst has yet to come and that Erdoğan’s rush is to prevent the release of this very worst.

As of the afternoon of March 21, Turkish President Abdullah Gül, EU Commissioner Stefan Füle, the State Department of the U.S. and numerous national and international organizations, have voiced their opposition to the move, expressing grave concerns and calling on the government to lift the Twitter ban. Even Cabinet ministers Mehmet Şimşek and Ali Babacan expressed their belief that the ban would not last long, and underlined the importance of social media for an open society. But who wants an open society? Not Erdoğan, obviously.

Starting from the massive Gezi protests and escalations during the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption and graft operation process, we are observing the regression of Turkey’s democratic achievements under Erdoğan’s government. His uncontrolled anger that results in uncalculated moves is landing huge blows on people’s lives and their hopes for the future. With his recent steps, he stole the people’s belief in justice, the people’s notion of public conscious and of individual liberties. At this point, I recalled a book by American author Ron Paul Jones, titled “The Way to Steal Freedom,” as he introduced it as a guide for government.      

“To steal freedom, do whatever this book says,” it reads, citing the following methods:  

“Purge government officials and opposition leaders--Attack laws and the constitution--Take advantage of opportunities--Blame scapegoats, foreign and domestic--Use the military in domestic crises--Create domestic wars everywhere--Keep the people under close surveillance--Embrace tracking technologies--Pass hate crime laws--Maintain terrorist lists, immigrant lists, sexual offender lists, etc.--Take away people’s property--Control education--Expand military draft--Engage in aggressive interrogation and torture--Suspend habeas corpus (a key judicial act that nixes arbitrary arrest)-- Limit free speech and assembly--Control media through censorship--Require gun registration--Control guns through economic means--Manage the economy--Increase the income tax and inflation tax.”

Who would disagree that a good majority of these methods are now being used by the government? Erdoğan, especially on the eve of the elections, is doing everything he can just to cover up a probe into how millions of euros and dollars of this country have been stolen. Instead of weakening the democratic pillars of Turkey and of giving a major blow to the country’s reputation through his irresponsible and unwise moves, he should allow a total investigation on corruption allegations to clear his and his party’s record. Otherwise, history will cite him among the most corrupt politicians, who in particular stole the future and hope of his nation.