Twitter to switch off Erdogan

Hours later, Turkish telecommunication authorities blocked the access to Twitter across the nation

Mahir Zeynalov

Published: Updated:

“I don't care at all,” Turkey’s bellicose Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said before the crowd of his supporters on Thursday about the reaction of the international community over a possible ban on Twitter. “Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is,” Erdogan yelled.

Hours later, Turkish telecommunication authorities blocked the access to Twitter across the nation, even without a proper court order, according to many media reports. The ban didn't work; Turkish Twitter users posted nearly 3 million tweets the night when the site was switched off and 30 percent more than the day earlier. The country’s users quickly found ways to circumvent the ban, changing their DNS settings or using Virtual Private Networks.

Erdogan frequently tries to prove in public rallies that he is not a dictator. He says it would be impossible to call him a dictator if he was one. Similar to his deeply anti-democratic policies in the past few years, Erdogan is also very bad at being an “effective” dictator. Instead of crushing his enemies, he is creating new ones, strengthening their hand, feeding their reputation and entrenching himself and his government. A ban on Twitter is a declaration to the world that “I am a dictator,” putting Turkey in the league of North Korea, China and Iran.

Dirty tactics

The prime minister has psychological problems. Since protests linked to the Gezi Park last summer, he has worked tooth and nail in electoral campaigning and employed every dirty tactic to maintain crucial support of his electorate. Whatever Erdogan is doing is a “defense reflex” in the face of growing opposition to his rule rather than part of a well-thought strategy.

A prime minister that is switching off Twitter for political gains is nothing but a man staging assaults at every imaginary monster he sees

Mahir Zeynalov

With media broadcasting penguins at these extraordinary times, Twitter is the only venue for Turks to exchange views, share worrisome developments and express outrage against the government’s increasingly unbearable authoritarian way of rule. Along with sharing opinion and news, Turks also read exclusive intelligence from the inner circle of Erdogan’s government provided by unhappy government officials using a pseudonym on Twitter.


In addition, two Twitter accounts, Haramzadeler and Başçalan, share every night voice recordings of Erdogan, his ministers and advisers, lawmakers, senior government officials, pro-government businessmen and journalists. Although most of them include conversations that could be evidence in a criminal investigation, it is not clear if the conversations are legally wiretapped.

The content of the conversations is outrageous enough to bring down a government in normal democracies. In one conversation, for instance, between former Turkish EU minister Egemen Bağış and a journalist, both make fun of holy Qur’an. Similar treatment of Qur’an in the West would trigger widespread protests, but nothing happens when a “conservative” minister of a conservative government makes fun of the holy book. The content of the conversations among government officials gets uglier everyday, showing how corrupt the government of Erdogan has been all along.

There have also been rumors that scandalous voice recordings might be posted on Youtube and shared on Twitter in late March, just days before key local polls slated for March 30. Erdogan shut down the Twitter most likely to prevent people from listening to the voice recordings before the elections. He knew that he would face with such a huge international condemnation. But for him, this is a full-fledged war. In his words, he doesn't “care at all.”

Bloodshed in the streets

Erdogan also planned to see protesters clashing with riot police in the streets in a bid to rally his electorate behind him by banning Twitter. Hours after the micro-blogging site was banned across Turkey, Twitter users that usually promoted the ruling party’s policies started calling people to protest the ban in the streets. It was a trap by the government to increase the votes of Erdogan's ruling party.

The plan was to use indiscriminate force against the protesters and provoke the protesters to resort to violence. The violence committed by the opposition would translate into more votes for the government. This might sound incredible; but this is exactly what kind of man the prime minister has turned into.

A government that is unable to estimate that the ban on Twitter will only tarnish Turkey’s reputation in the world is also the one that would be ineligible to rule the Muslim world’s most powerful nation. A prime minister that is switching off Twitter for political gains is nothing but a man staging assaults at every imaginary monster he sees.

Mahir Zeynalov is a journalist with Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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