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February 26 2014

February 13 2014

Netizen Report: #TheDayWeFightBack Edition

Images from February 11, from top left: a mural by War Design art collective in Bogota, Colombia; a public protest in Manila, Philippines (photo by ; a public rally in San Francisco, US (photo by Ellery Biddle); an anti-surveillance cartoon by Egyptian cartoonist Doaa Eladl.

From top left: mural by War Design art collective in Bogota, Colombia; public protest in Manila, Philippines (photo by @leannejazul) ; public rally in San Francisco, US (photo by Ellery Biddle); anti-surveillance cartoon by Egyptian artist Doaa Eladl.

Sonia Roubini, Bojan Perkov, Hae-in Lim, Ellery Roberts Biddle, and Sarah Myers contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins on the Internet, where people and groups all over the world came together and took a stand against mass surveillance on February 11, #thedaywefightback. Citizens took to the streets and to the web, pushing online campaigns, calling elected representatives, hosting hackathons and organizing public protests — and over 244,000 people signed the Thirteen Principles on International Communications Surveillance, urging governments worldwide to uphold human rights standards when it comes to online privacy.

February 11 was also a great day for potent discussion about the different ways in which surveillance takes shape and effects citizens in different countries. On Advox, Yemeni activist and scholar Walid Al-Saqaf and Iranian-Canadian researcher Mahsa Alimardani each wrote editorials exploring the issue in different countries in the Middle East, where surveillance is often the norm, whether online or in real life. Probing at western digital rights communities’ shift of focus towards surveillance, Al-Saqaf wrote,

I cannot accept the idea that the fight has now moved to the area of surveillance and away from free speech. While this may be the case where censorship is limited or non-existent, it is certainly not applicable to many countries living under authoritarian rule.

Free Expression: “Too much freedom, and you might start hitting your wife,” warns Turkish gov’t

Riot police in Turkey used tear gas and water cannons last weekend to break up over 2,000 protesters demonstrating against the country’s new Internet legislation. The new bills, which passed on February 6, will require ISPs to make web user data available to authorities and will allow Turkey’s telecommunications authority to block websites, all without prior court approval.

As if it its views weren’t clear enough already, the Turkish government recently launched an advertising campaign featuring a woman with a bruised face and a caption suggesting that too much freedom online can lead to violence.

Thuggery: Azeri journalist takes exile from Turkey over harmful tweets

Mahir Zeynalov, a journalist for Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman, has been barred from entering the country by the Turkish government after posting several tweets viewed as critical of high-level state officials. Zeynalov elected to return to his native Azerbaijan after officials threatened to expel him under an article of Law 5651 that allows for the deportation of foreigners “whose residence in Turkey is considered detrimental to public security and political and administrative requirements.”

Telecom authorities in Venezuela are threatening to fine local media for covering student protests that have dominated social discourse in recent weeks. A series of student demonstrations [es] — over issues ranging from poor conditions in university residence halls to national political reform — intensified this week after several students were arrested on dubious charges of “association” with criminal activity. From Caracas, Global Voices author and attorney Marianne Diaz writes,

As opposition leaders summon rallies around the country, people are expected to turn to social media to learn about the development of the demonstrations, which likely will not be reported on any public or mainstream news platforms.

Three Kazakh bloggers were sentenced to ten days in jail for engaging in “minor hooliganism” after they were excluded from a “blogger luncheon” hosted by the mayor of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capital. The incident has divided Almaty’s blogging community, some of whom—including the three detained bloggers—have painted the invitees as “corrupt” and “tamed.”

Indonesian Twitter celebrity Benny Handoko was found guilty of defamation and sentenced to a year of probation after he called a former member of the Prosperous Justice Party a crook in a series of tweets.

Industry: Facebook boots Syrian opposition groups

Facebook’s recent decision to shut down pages belonging to Syrian opposition groups have dealt a blow to activists who had been relying on Facebook to communicate and report on the war’s atrocities. Some activists speculate that regime supporters are taking advantage of Facebook’s “Community Standards” that allow users to report on pages they believe are violating the site’s terms of service. While some pages with graphic imagery may in fact violate terms, some question whether Terms should be amended in response to unique situations such as this, where Facebook serves as a vital platform for information and documentation.

Twitter released its fourth transparency report, covering the second half of 2013. The report shows that the total number of user data requests rose by 22 percent compared to the previous report. The company received 1410 requests from 46 countries, most coming from the United States (59%) and Japan (15%), with France and the UK next in line. Twitter did not disclose all information on US government requests under national security laws, including FISA.

Netizen Activism: Keeping #Euromaidan alive, despite the cold

Activists in Ukraine are fighting to keep the Euromaidan protest movement alive through web-based projects, social media, and art. Updates on Euromaidan are available at their Public Relations Secretariat page and at

European Digital Rights, an association of 35 European digital rights organizations, launched, which urges political candidates to sign a “Charter of Digital Rights” promising to uphold a set of principles if elected. In turn, voters promise to elect candidates who sign on to the charter.

Cool Things

The Web We Want, a global campaign supporting digital rights activism around the globe held a cartoon contest to support #TheDayWeFightBack. Seventeen-year-old Paraguayan cartoonist Francisco Javier ¨Frankiano¨ Cardozo Baudry won the grand prize with his contribution ¨Do Not Fear, I care about you,¨ a multi-frame comic showing how surveillance is affecting every aspect of the lives of young Internet users today.

Publications and Studies


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January 29 2014

Lebanon: New Stamp to Commemorate Armenian Genocide

Lebanon will have a new national stamp released to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Announcing it on Twitter, Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui stressed the symbolic importance of the stamp:

An estimated 1 to 1.5 million Armenians were killed in present-day Turkey (then under Ottoman rule), starting from April 1915, in what became known as the Armenian genocide.

Armenian activists and supporters have taken this opportunity to remind the world of the importance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide:

London-based historian Rory Yeomans notes its historic importance:

Turkish Twitter user Mehmet Kosucu thinks otherwise:

January 18 2014

Lebanese blogger spoofs Study on Middle Eastern Women Dressing

The question “How should Middle Eastern Women Dress in Public” posed by the University of Michigan is attracting hilarious spoofs online. The content is so rich that an additional post to our first one was necessary.

When Washington Post Max Fisher shared the original image on Twitter, he wasn't expecting this response by WSJ blogger Tom Gara:

But the spoof that got the most attention was undoubtedly Karl Sharro's of KarlreMarks:

Interviewed on PRI, he explained his motivation:

“It's almost like putting Muslim women on a scale from 1 to 6, from being fully covered to not being covered at all, which I think is pretty absurd.”

January 16 2014

Facebook Teams Up with Russia's Top Search Engine

Yandex gets to drink from Facebook's firehose. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock, pulled from YouTube captures.

Yandex gets to drink from Facebook's firehose. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock, pulled from YouTube captures.

Scholars and researchers of the Russian Internet can rejoice this week, for Russia's leading search engine,, is now the second website in the world, after Bing in the United States, to gain access to Facebook firehose data [ru]. This means that Yandex can now search Facebook's streaming API and provide live results for all public posts. The new deal with Facebook is limited to users based in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. Currently, only Yandex's blogs-specific search feature is capable of returning Facebook results, but the company's spokesperson told TechCrunch on January 13, 2014, that Yandex hopes to incorporate Facebook links in its general Internet search results soon.

December 19 2013

Mapping the ‘Urban Commons’ of Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul and Athens

Street protest of teachers in Rio de Janeiro (Oct 7, 2013). Photo shared on the Facebook page Mapeando o bem comum do Rio de Janeiro

Street protest of teachers in Rio de Janeiro (Oct 7, 2013). Photo shared on the Facebook page Mapeando o bem comum do Rio de Janeiro (Mapping the commons in Rio de Janeiro, in Portuguese)

A group of activists, artists, social scientists and students of various studies are working to map the urban commons of Athens, Istanbul and Rio de Janeiro. Urban commons refer to non-private or institutional resources which are shared by all and generated as a result of collective participation. The “commons” include natural resources, urban public spaces, creative works and even cultural traditions and knowledge which are exempt from copyrights.

The project Mapping the Commons is part of a survey carried out by Pablo de Soto (@pablodesoto), a doctorate student of the Communication School of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The hypothesis raised by de Soto is whether it is possible to map out the commons through collective creativity as a form of debating the control governments have over society's commons:

Which is the commonwealth of the contemporary metropolis and how can it be located? How are the commons being protected from enclosure by totalitarian neoliberalism’s public-private enterprises? Which new practices of commoning are emerging in the cycle of struggles that began in 2010-11? What are the advantages and the risks of such a cartography in times of crisis and rebellions?

In practice, the research method proposed by the project is based on nomadic and temporary workshops where the urban commons are discussed, parametrized, charted and represented in short videos.

Mapping Rio's commons

In October 2013, the researcher brought [es] the project to Rio de Janeiro, thus starting the mapping of the “practices of common doing” in Brazil, as explained [pt] in the Portuguese language page of Rio's project:

O Brasil, como América Latina toda, é um país especial nas práticas dos commons. O comum bebe de tradições ibéricas (faixanais, rossios, propriedades comunais), da cultura afro (quilombos, criação cultural coletiva, propriedades conjuntas) e indígenas (propriedade coletiva, malokas). Do mutirão ao conceito de ‘comunidade’ que substitui a palavra ‘favela’, o Brasil é uma celeiro de práticas do comum. Porém, o mercado e o capitalismo estão castigando o comum sem piedade.

Brazil, as the whole of Latin America, is a special country regarding practices of the commons. The “common” derives from the Iberian traditions (faixanais, rossios, communal properties), from the African culture (quilombos, collective cultural creation, joint properties) and from the indigenous cultures (collective property, malokas). From the mutirão (crowdsourcing) to the concept of “community” which replaces the word “favela” (slum), Brazil is a storehouse of common practices. However, both the market and capitalism are punishing the common without mercy.

Taking on the concept of “rebellious cities”, coined by social theorist David Harvey, de Soto adds that recent protests in Rio de Janeiro – “the demonstrations, the popular assemblies, the urban interventions” – point to a new demand for the right to the city, “a new common and participative space of coexistence”. He also explained to the English-language audience of the website that:

Rio de Janeiro, a city branded as “the marvellous city” has probably one of the most exuberant assets for natural and cultural commons in world. Those commons are disputed in a metropolis of enormous inequality and historically under state of exception.

Present days where the city is going to host mega events as the World Cup and the Olympic Games, where conflicts of housing evictions flourish in many areas, where protests that began last June have pointed to the mobility as a common and the right to the city, have opened an excellent opportunity for a political discussion on the urban commons.

Between 21 and 23 November 2013, there took place the mapping out workshops

#MapeandoOComum (#MappingTheCommons). A mapping workshop on “The struggle for the shared commons” took place in Rio de Janeiro from November 21-23.

The Mapping the Commons activities, which took place in Rio last October, included the seminars Metrópoles globais e Cidadania Insurgentes (Global metropolis and emergent citizenships) [pt] and O que pode a cidade? (What can the city?) [pt]. Working groups were created to take care of the parametrization and the mapping of the commons in Rio. The process has been disseminated through Facebook on the page Mapeando o bem comum do Rio de Janeiro (Mapping the commons in Rio de Janeiro) [pt]. The final presentation of the results of the project took place on December 14. 

Athens, Istanbul and the commons

Before being introduced in Brazil, the Mapping the Commons research project had already been discussed in workshops in Athens (2010) and in Istanbul (2012). The videos which resulted from these workshops were also presented in Rio.

The rescue of Gezi Park, for instance, and the popular turmoil which took hold in the central area of Beyoglu, Istanbul in 2013, when the population camped on site against the demolition of the park as part of a urban renewal project, were the subject of the research.

The video below shows how the rescue of the commons in Istanbul turned into political strife after the police reacted with brutality against the demonstrators:

The video produced in the Greek capital, Athens, focuses on language issues, taking as a starting point the literature by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in their book Commonwealth:

Language like affects and gestures, is for the most part common, and indeed if language were made either private or public — that is, if large portions of our words, phrases, or parts of speech were subject to private ownership or public authority — then language would lose its powers of expression, creativity, and communication.

A philosophical elucidation about the commons, as suggested [pt] by de Soto on the project's Facebook page, can be found on Iohannes Maurus's blog [es], which links the theme with Marx's perspective. 

November 09 2013

Turk-Arab Youth Congress: Middle East Needs Greater Regional Cooperation

Participants at the annual Turk-Arab Youth Congress (TAYC) in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of October called for a future in which Turks and Arabs work together at all levels for a better future of the region. 

The Congress emphasized the need for Turks and Arabs to recognize their common heritage as well as conform to their own standards instead of those set by the West. 

Since 2012, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Youth Assembly (IMMYA), a platform for Turkish youth, has held the Turk-Arab Youth Congress (TAYC). The congress is a platform in which Arab and Turkish youth and intellectuals can meet, talk about ideas and bring about a new vision for the region's future. The sessions and workshops are intended to create a comprehensive understanding for the participants and policy makers about the ground issues and challenges that region faces in order to explore new ideas and approaches for the present and future.

Logo of Turk Arab Youth CongressThe theme for this year's TAYC in Istanbul, Turkey, was “justice”, and the topics covered included: creating regional and global civil aid networks, and rethinking regional and global economic institutions. Young people belonging to 24 different Arab countries took part in the congress this year and zealously asked questions about their future, especially against the backdrop of uprisings and political unrest in the Middle East. The three-day (October 25, 2013 to October 27, 2013) program consisted of workshops, sessions and NGO presentations. 

The description of the Facebook page of Turk Arab Youth Congress stated the following goals:

1.To draw a vision for the future of the New Arabic World.
2.To create the platform for the youth to meet with the Arab & the Turkish intellectuals
3.To share and to document the “Street Experience” of the demonstrations from the people of revolution

Image courtesy Gulay Kaplan. From Turk-Arab Youth Congress Facebook Page.

Image courtesy Gulay Kaplan. From Turk-Arab Youth Congress Facebook Page.

On the first day, notable intellectuals and advisors to some political parties in Turkey delivered opening speeches. Panel discussion were conducted to explain the current scenario of the region and future implications.

The Twitter account (@Turk_Arab) of the Turk Arab Youth Congress (TAYC) shared a steady stream of opinions and statements from the speakers. Some noteworthy ones are:

Miss Summeyye Erdogan, Advisor to the Chairman of AK party, told young people to remain united despite the divides between them:

The Director and Coordinator of TAYC 2013, Oguzhan Mailmail (@oguzhan Mailmail) welcomed the participants on the first day and explained the goals of the congress to them.

Dr. Kerem Kinik (@drkerem), President of Doctors Worldwide, gave a presentation on “togetherness” and suggested that young people share their pain and suffering and speak out against oppression:

@Turk_Arab @GenclikMeclisi said #R4BIA @r4biaplatform

Turk Arab Youth Congress (@Turk_Arab) tweeted:

Omar Salha (@o_salha), founder of Ramadan Tent and a doctoral fellow working on global diplomacy, conducted sessions on the intervention of international organizations in local conflicts and politics. He considered the interaction with the participants an insightful one:

Izzy (@islam_altayeb), a Middle East analyst, tweeted:

The “Economic and Financial Commission” was moderated by Muzammil Thakur (@M_A_Thakur), an advocate for the cause of Indian occupied Kashmir:

The economic and financial committee at the workshop

Merve Serire (@karakurukiz), who studied economics at Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey, moderated the social, humanitarian and cultural commission:

The cultural and humanitarian and social committee at the workshop

As an example of the impact of the platform, Dorra Amara (@DorraAmara) from Tunisia and Merve Serire (@karakurukiz) from Turkey became close at the Congress. Amara tweeted this picture:

At the end of all the sessions and workshops, the participants were asked to devise solutions for the Syrian refugee problem. Representative from each workshop shared information with all the participants in an evaluation conducted on the evening of October 26 and October 27, 2013:

@Turk_Arab Assessment of second day sessions at Youth Congress. #tayc2013 #TAYC2013

A short video clip, highlighting the overview of the congress can also be viewed through the following link:

It is evident that events of such nature are giving the Muslim youth a chance to channel their energies in the correct direction. They are discussing their future as they alone can better understand the dynamics of their respective countries. Apart from political harmony and unity, people across the borders can interact with each other. This is significant for Arab region that is going through disharmony and uncertainty.

Thumbnail image by author. Translations by Amira Al Hussaini & Baran Mavzer.

October 23 2013

Overwhelmed by Syrian Refugees, Bulgaria Seeks EU Aid

Bulgaria, as the closest EU country to Syria, is seeing more than its fair share of the average 5,000 refugees that are fleeing Syria every day. Unprepared and inexperienced in dealing with this influx of refugees seeking shelter, food and protection, Syria has requested assistance and financial aid from the European Union. Meanwhile, some Bulgarian ministers have allegedly proposed to use some of the new funding to put up a 30-kilometer barrier fence along the border with Turkey to prevent illegal entry.

Open Democracy reports in more detail:

Geographically, Bulgaria is not that remote from Syria. Sharing a border with Turkey, Bulgaria is the EU member state closest to Syria if one is travelling by road or railway transport. Therefore, as the most likely first point of entry into the Union, Bulgaria must be well equipped to meet the challenges that will ensue with the new expected waves of Syrian refugees in the coming months. Unfortunately, that appears not to be the case.[...]

This week it is expected that the European Commission will make a final decision as to whether Bulgaria will receive financial aid to cope with the situation. In the meantime, Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, has warned that the Bulgarian authorities lack experience of dealing with similar situations and have failed in crisis planning.

October 01 2013

Video: Anti-fascist Solidarity from Turkey to Greece

“We made this video to tell you we are with us. We had nothing more in mind.”

A moving video with testimonials of anti-fascist solidarity from Turkish activists in the memory of Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas, slain by neonazis in Athens last month, was uploaded on YouTube, subtitled in Greek. The video was set to a dirge written by Turkish composer Zülfü Livaneli and Greek lyricist Lefteris Papadopoulos, and performed by famous Greek singer and political Maria Farandouri, an icon of the struggle against the Greek military junta in the late 60′s.

September 23 2013

Warring across Syria's border with Turkey - English edition

Warring across Syria’s border with Turkey - English edition

In Oncupinar in southern #Turkey, close to the Syrian border, Ahmed sits huddled with his wife and four young children. They have been refugees for going on seven months, since a missile slammed into their Aleppo home.


July 30 2013

Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia and Brazil on Winning Streak at Girls’ U18 Volleyball World Championship

As the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) blog reports, the Serbian, Turkish, Slovenian and Brazilian under-18 girls’ national volleyball teams showed outstanding results on the weekend of July 27-28, some with a perfect win-loss ratio. Full stats and results are available and regularly updated on the Federation's website.


July 11 2013

France Sees Shades of its Revolutionary Past in Turkey's Revolt

The recent unrest in Turkey has left eight dead and more than 4,000 injured as well as exposed political divides and ineptitudes in the country that straddles Europe and Asia.

But the consequences of the massive protests, which grew from a movement to stop the destruction of Istanbul's Gezi Park for a redevelopment project in Taksim Square, have extended far beyond the borders of Turkey.

Members of the European Union, led by Germany, have used these clashes as an excuse to postpone negotiations on Turkey's entry into the European Union from late June until autumn. The website Cameroonvoice [fr] specified:

La chancelière Angela Merkel a déclaré la semaine dernière que les événements en Turquie ne correspondaient pas aux “notions européennes de la liberté de réunion et d’expression”.

The Chancellor Angela Merkel declared last week that the events in Turkey do not correspond to “European ideas of freedom of assembly and expression.”

At the same time, the events in Turkey seem to have generated questions about identity in France and throughout Europe tied to the prospect of Turkey's entry into the European Union. The French are asking themselves variations of, “Do we share the same values?”

Erdogan Twitter

Erdogan: The demonstrations are Twitter's fault, by khalid Albaih on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa/2.0

Not so different? 

Many French media outlets have based their analyses of the EU matter on the events of June in Turkey, trying out a number of different analogies. As if this large neighbour, who might soon become part of the family, and its revolts offered the French a mix of complete exoticism and familiar reality. As Henri Goldman writes on his blog [fr]:

Un peu partout, on compare Taksim à Tahir, le Printemps turc au Printemps arabe. Sur les images qui circulent, ce sont les mêmes couches sociales,– étudiants, classes moyennes instruites… – qui tiennent le haut du pavé. Celles-ci nourrissent leurs aspirations à partir du kit culturel cosmopolite qui se diffuse par internet et constitue désormais le bagage commun des courants « branchés » des sociétés en transition. Le mode de mobilisation aussi les rapproche : des mots d’ordre lancés à travers la toile et qui essaiment en réseaux sans quartier général où n’importe quelle consigne est reprise pour autant qu’elle réponde à l’attente, indépendamment de qui la lance.”

Everywhere, Taksim is being compared to Tahir, the Turkish spring to the Arab spring. In the images making the rounds, we see the same social groups – students, educated middle classes… – leading the field. They feed their ambitions with the cosmopolitan cultural kit spread over the Internet and which now forms the stock ideas of the “fashionable” schools of thought in societies in transition. The means of mobilisation brings them together too: slogans begun on the Internet which spring up in networks without headquarters, where any instructions are repeated so long as they correspond to expectations, no matter who starts them.

Others, particularly in France, have seen the protest as a new “May '68“, referring to the Paris social revolution of 1968, sometimes in a desire to identify with the protesters. Chems Eddine Chitour's blog [fr] does just that:

“Les médias occidentaux pensaient et pensent  que le dernier «domino» allait tomber. Ils ont présenté cette colère comme celle d’une Turquie ultralaïque qui en a marre de l’AKP et tout est fait pour forcer l’analogie avec les places Tahrir et partant avec les tyrans arabes. Pas un mot d’une analogie avec mai 1968 en Europe au sortir des trente glorieuses bâties sur la sueur des émigrés. Quand Daniel Cohn-Bendit et ses camarades avaient mis à mal le gouvernement de De Gaulle ce n’était pas pour du pain comme la plupart des révoltes dans les pays arabes, mais c’était pour secouer un ordre ancien en interdisant d’interdire…”

Western media outlets thought and think that the last ‘domino’ was going to fall. They have presented this anger as that of an ultra-secular Turkey, fed up with the AKP, and the analogy with Tahrir Square and the doing away with Arab tyrants is pushed to its limits. Not once has the analogy been drawn with May 1968 in Europe, at the end of the so-called golden years, built on the sweat of immigrants. When Daniel Cohn-Bendit and his fellow students took action against De Gaulle's government, it was not because they were starving, like most of the uprisings in Arab countries, but to shake up an old order by not allowing it to suppress them…

The European Parliament officially condemned the brutal repression of the demonstration. But Ex-Expat [fr] commented on a France 24 article which describes the ongoing demonstration:

Les seuls Européens en Turquie sont ceux au Taksim et leurs sympathisants!”

The only Europeans in Turkey are those in Taksim Square and their supporters!

A video showing the protesters in Taksim Square singing “Do you hear the people sing?” taken from the musical Les Misérables about the Paris uprising of 1832, demonstrates the link between the protesters and Europe:

From Gezi Park to Turkey's EU integration

Taksim ist überall

“Taksim ist überall!” – “Taksim is everywhere!” Hamburg, Germany, 8 June, 2013. By Rasande Tyskar on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

The “European values” Angela Merkel spoke of are the values picked up by online media outlets, sliding almost systematically from the subject of the Gezi and Taksim demonstrations to that of Turkey's integration into the EU. Franck Proust [fr], a member of the European Parliament for the French UMP Party, reiterated the position of the French right-wing. Coralie Morallet explains [fr] on the regional  news website Objectif Gard (Southern France):

Un accord de partenariat: oui, mais l’adhésion à l’Europe : Non! La Turquie n’a rien d’européenne. Nous ne partageons pas la même culture, ni les mêmes racines judéo-chrétiennes, ni les mêmes aspirations politiques“

A partnership agreement: yes, but accession to Europe: no! Turkey is not European. We don't share the same culture, nor the same Judeo-Christian roots, nor the same political aspirations.

A comment from Joël Toussaint [fr] responded:

L’Europe partage des racines judéo-chrétiennes qui ont été plantées… en Turquie! Le premier Concile de Nicée date de 325 et le premier Concile de Constantinople fut tenu en 381. (…) L’arrogance trouve sa racine dans l’ignorance… M. Proust saute à pieds joints sur le prétexte que lui fournit Erdogan et met ainsi le pied dans le plat. Il procède à un exercice d’amalgame entre le peuple turc et ses dirigeants. La démagogie politique dans toute sa splendeur!”

Europe shares Judeo-Christian roots which were sown… in Turkey! The first Council of Nicea was in 325, and the first Council of Constantinople took place in 381. (…) Arrogance is rooted in ignorance. Mr. Proust jumps feet first into the pretext given by Erdogan, and ends up putting his foot in it. He is conflating the Turkish people with their leaders. Political grandstanding in all of its glory!

The majority of comments were very pessimistic [fr] as to the outcome of the integration process:

(…) Vouloir absolument européaniser le digne successeur de l’empire ottoman est une vue de l’esprit, une vision idyllique de la future Union européenne. Ce n’est pas parce 5% de la population adhère aux idées et valeurs de l’UE que les 95% d’anatoliens vont le faire, ni parce que Constantinople est devenu Ankara que la mentalité des dirigeants ottomans  – kémalistes ou islamistes (modérés ?), a changé.”

solidarity occupygezi Wroclaw

Demonstration of solidarity with #OccupyGezi in Wroclaw, Poland. By David Krawczyk on Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

(…) Insisting on europeanising the worthy successor of the Ottoman Empire is an illusion, an idyllic vision of the future of the European Union. Just because 5 percent of the population adhere to the ideas and values of the EU doesn't means that 95 percent of Anatolians will do so. Just because Constantinople has become Ankara, it doesn't means that the mentality of the Ottoman leaders – whether Kemalist or (moderate?) Islamist – has changed.

But there are some who turn the spotlight on the values shared with the protesters themselves across European borders: against police violence, arbitrary detention of protesters and journalists, and for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. As Cameroonvoice [fr] affirmed:

De l’Azerbaïdjan au Sénégal tout le monde compatit avec les manifestants de la place Taksim, pas avec Erdogan”, conclut Hakan Günes, professeur de politologie à l’université de Marmara.”

“From Azerbaijan to Senegal, everyone sympathizes with the protesters in Taksim Square, not with Erdogan”, concludes Hakan Günes, Professor of Political Science at the University of Marmara.

And the more that Turkey's Prime Minister's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turns to conspiracy theories [fr] to denounce the influence of the European Union, Western media, social networks (especially Twitter), the more he risks isolating himself on the world stage. It is ironic, then, that it it is precisely with regards to the fear of the other and conspiracy theories that Sema Kaygusuz, a Turkish writer [fr], sees similarities between Turkish and American societies:

La Turquie est un pays où tout le monde a peur de l’autre. Les Kémalistes ont peur des islamistes, les islamistes ont peur des laïques, les femmes ont peur des hommes, les enfants ont peur des adultes… C’est la mentalité américaine : on est toujours en danger.”

Turkey is a country where everyone fears the other. Kemalists fear Islamists, Islamists fear secularists, women fear men, children fear adults… It's the American mentality: we are always under threat.

Online and Off, Information Control Persists in Turkey

Demonstrators at Gezi Park. Photo by Nevit Dilmen. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Demonstrators at Gezi Park. Photo by Nevit Dilmen. (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Demonstrators in Turkey have occupied Istanbul’s Taksim Square since last May, in a movement that began as an effort to protect a city park, but has evolved into a larger mobilization against the ruling party’s increasingly autocratic stance.

Prime Minister Erdogan and the ruling AKP party have used many tools to silence voices of the opposition. On June 15, police began using tear gas and water cannons to clear out the large encampment in the park. But this effort also has stretched beyond episodes of physical violence and police brutality into the digital world, where information control and media intimidation are on the rise.

Since the protests began, dozens of Turkish social media users have been detained on charges ranging from inciting demonstrations, to spreading propaganda and false information, to insulting government officials. Dozens more Twitter users were reportedly arrested for posting images of police brutality, though the legal pretense for these arrests is unclear. A recent ruling in an Ankara court ordered 22 demonstrators detained on terrorism-related charges.

Prime Minister Erdogan made his view of social media known when he described social media as “the worst menace to society” at a June press conference. It is worth noting that Erdogan himself is said to maintain a Twitter account with over 3 million followers and 2,000 tweets (some Turks question whether the unverified account is really him, or an unofficial supporter.) While the Turkish government has had limited, if any, involvement in tampering with social media access thus far, government officials appear eager to take further action.

Roots in traditional media

Although current circumstances appear to be testing the limits of Turkey’s information policy framework, the country has a long history of restrictive media policy and practice. In 2013, Turkey ranked 154 out of 166 on the Reporters Without Borders’ Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index, due in part to the fact that since 1992 18 journalists have been murdered there, 14 with impunity. In responding to protest coverage, authorities have fined, detained and even beaten members of the press. Institutional censorship has also been prevalent: When clashes between protesters and police escalated, activists noted that CNN Turk aired a documentary on penguins while CNN International ran live coverage of the events in Taksim Square.

Dubbed the “the world’s biggest prison for journalists” by Reporters Without Borders, Turkey has been particularly aggressive in arresting Kurdish journalists under Turkey’s anti-terrorism law known as Terörle Mücadele Yasası.

Controlling digital expression

As of 2012, 45% of Turkey’s population had regular access to the Internet. The country’s leading ISP, Türk Telekom (TT), formerly a government-controlled monopoly, was privatized in 2005 but retained a 95% percent market share in 2007. Türk Telekom also controls the country’s only commercial backbone.

Internet Law No. 5651, passed in 2007, prohibits online content in eight categories including prostituion, sexual abuse of children, facilitation of the abuse of drugs, and crimes against (or insults to) Atatürk. The law authorizes the Turkish Supreme Council for Telecommunications and IT (TIB) to block a website when it has “adequate suspicion” that the site hosts illegal content. In 2011, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights reported that 80% of online content blocked in Turkey was due to decisions made by the TIB, with the remaining 20% being blocked as the result of orders by Turkey’s traditional court system. In 2009 alone, nearly 200 court decisions found TIB decisions to block websites unjustifiable because they fell outside the scope of Law 5651. The law also has been criticized for authorizing takedowns of entire sites when only a small portion of their content stands in violation of the law.

Between 2008 and 2010, YouTube was blocked in its entirety under Law 5651 because of specific videos that fell into the category of “crimes against Atatürk”. During this period, YouTube continued to be the 10th most visited site in Turkey, with users accessing the site through proxies. The ban was eventually lifted when YouTube removed the videos in question and came under compliance with Turkish law. Sites likes Blogspot, Metacafe, Wix and others have gone through similar ordeals in Turkey in recent years. An estimated 31,000 websites are blocked in the country.

In December 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that Turkey had violated their citizen’s right to free expression by blocking Google Sites. While Turkey justified the ban based on Sites’ hosting of websites that violated Law 5651, the ECHR found that Turkish law did not allow for “wholesale blocking of access” to a hosting provider like Google Sites. Furthermore, Google Sites had not been informed that it was hosting “illegal” content.

In 2011, Turkey proposed a mandatory online filtering system described as an effort to protect minors and families. This new system, dubbed Güvenli İnternet, or Secure Internet, would block any website that contained keywords from a list of 138 terms deemed inappropriate by telecom authority BTK. The plan was met with public backlash and protests causing the government to re-evaluate the system and eventually offer it as an opt-in service. While only 22,000 of Turkey’s 11 million Internet users have so far opted for the system, opponents of Güvenli İnternet decry it as a form of censorship, disguised as an effort to protect children and families from “objectionable content”.

New policies could further restrict social networks

As the protests continue, the Turkish government is working to use legal tools already at its disposal to increase control over social network activity. Transportation and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim has called on Twitter to establish a representative office within the country. Legally, this could give the Turkish government greater ability to obtain user data from the company. But these requests have not received a warm response from Twitter, which has developed a reputation for protecting user data in the face of government requests. While Twitter has “turned down” requests from the Turkish government for user data and general cooperation, Minister Yildirim stated that Facebook had responded “positively”. Shortly thereafter, Facebook published a “Fact Check” post that denied cooperation with Turkish officials.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Muammer Güler told journalists that “the issue [of social media] needs a separate regulation” and Deputy Prime Minister Bozdag stated that the government had no intention of placing an outright ban on social media, but indicated a desire to outlaw “fake” social media accounts. Sources have confirmed that the Justice Ministry is conducting research and drafting legislation on the issue.

New media expert Ozgur Uckan of Istanbul’s Bilgi University noted that “censoring social media sites presents a technical challenge, and that may be why officials are talking about criminalizing certain content, in an effort to intimidate users and encourage self-censorship.”

While the details of these new laws remain to be seen, it is likely that they will have some impact on journalistic and activist activities in the country, especially in times of rising public protest and dissent.

Greg Epstein is an intern for Global Voices Advocacy and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This post is also available on EFF's website.

July 05 2013

Brazil Stockpiles Arsenal of Non-Lethal Weapons Ahead of World Cup

[All links lead to sites in Portuguese]

This post, written by Bruno Fonseca and Natalia Viana for Agência Pública, was originally published as a report entitled “Bomba brasileira na pele turca”  (Turks Feel a Brazilian Bomb Firsthandand is part of the special coverage #IndústriaBrasileiraDeArmas (Brazilian Weapons Industry) on the weapons lobby and industry in Brazil. The story will be published in a series of three articles on Global Voices Online. This is the third part of the series.

Check out the second post: Brazilian Weapons Firm Exports Arms to Arab Countries

The Brazilian federal government agreed to the purchase of thousands of non-lethal weapons from Brazilian arms firm Condor – the same company that furnished the tear gas used against protesters in Turkey – to be used by the police forces in all the host cities of the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup for the sum of 49.5 million reais (22 million US dollars).

The agreement with Condor S.A. Indústria Química, signed on 26 November, 2012 to last until 31 December, 2014, provides for the supply of different types of weapons, such as 2,200 non-lethal short distance kits, which include pepper spray and pepper foam, tear gas grenades with traceable chips, indoor and outdoor moral effect grenades and explosive light and sound grenades; besides that, 449 non-lethal short distance kits with rubber bullet cartridges and impact expansible cartridges – bullets that expand when they touch the skin, avoiding perforation.

Apart from that, the agreement includes the purchase of 1,800 electric weapons for launching energized darts  – the so-called Taser guns, 8,300 moral-effect grenades, 8,300 light and sound grenades, 8,300 triple smoke tear gas grenades, and 50,000 pepper spray canisters.

Find the entire agreement here.

The tear gas exported to Turkey was also bought by the Federal Government for use during the World Cup 2014 and Olympics. Photo: Agência Pública (used under a Creative Commons license)

The tear gas exported to Turkey was also bought by the Brazilian federal government for use during the 2014 World Cup and Olympics. Photo by Agência Pública. Used under a Creative Commons license

Condor's non-lethal weapons are largely employed by police forces all over the country as well as by the federal government. Federal programs buy such weapons, for instance, to be used by the Unities of Pacifying Police (UPPs, initials in Portuguese) in Rio de Janeiro and by police forces in 12 States involved in the program  “Crack, É Possível Vencer” (Crack Cocaine, It's Possible to Win) including shock pistols, Taser guns, and pepper spray. The Brazilian government has already allocated 49 million Brazilian reais (approximately 22 million US dollars) to Condor just to pay for the weapons to be used during the Confederations Cup this year and in the 2014 World Cup.

The Brazilian tear gas exported to Turkey was also bought by the federal government to be used during the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

In April 2012, according to Transparency Portal [a website created by the federal government to inform on government's expenditures with the World Cup 2014], the federal government spent 1.5 million reais (approximately 669,000 US dollars) on the purchase of non-lethal ammunition from Condor to be used by the army to “ensure law and order in the residential compounds of Alemão and Penha”. Among the items which were purchased there were 1,125 explosive light and sound grenades (GL 307), 500 multi-impact pepper grenades (GM 102) and 500 smoke grenades, 29,500 rubber bullet cartridges and 700 random movement tear gas grenades (GL -310) – the same which were used against the protesters in Turkey.

In June, the government purchased weapons from Condor for the security of Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, amounting to a total of 1.3 million reais (approximately 579,000 US dollars). Among them were more than 900 pepper spray canisters, 1,300 triple tear gas grenades, 870 explosive light and sound grenades, and 5,000 12-calibre cartridges with rubber bullets.


While the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investment encourages the export of arms to countries such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, the use of the same non-lethal arms is questioned by the Brazilian justice.

In November 2012, the federal prosecutor for citizen's rights decided to investigate the damage brought by these arms to the health in the country. At the request of the organization Tortura Nunca Mais (Torture Never Again) from São Paulo, a working group comprising representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Defense and Health and of the Secretariat of Human Rights from the Presidency, as well as the Federal and State Police and the Municipal Guards, was created with the aim of monitoring bills on the subject. This was deemed necessary as there is no national rules to guide decisions and ensure an acceptable use of such weapons.

The working group shall also carry out a comparative study about police-training programs as well as studies about the consequences to the health of people targeted by these weapons, especially those that make use of electric shock and chemical components. Wilson Furtado, from Torture Never Again, observed:

Nossas polícias estão usando este tipo de armas supostamente não-letais de maneira ostensiva… O policial, em vez de deter a pessoa, atira e pronto, atingindo principalmente jovens que estão protestando.

Our police are using this type of allegedly non-lethal weapons ostensibly…Instead of arresting the person, the policeman fires the non-lethal weapon and that is it, targeting mainly the young people during their protest marches.

The organization asks for rules that regulate the use of non-lethal weapons, defining the type of authorized weapons and norms of purchase, control and use, as well as the mechanisms of information to citizens.

Reposted bydarksideofthemoon darksideofthemoon

July 04 2013

Brazilian Weapons Firm Exports Arms to Arab Countries

[All links lead to sites in Portuguese unless specified otherwise.]

This post, written by Bruno Fonseca and Natalia Viana for Agência Pública, was originally published as a report entitled “Bomba brasileira na pele turca”  (Turks Feel a Brazilian Bomb Firsthand) and is part of the special coverage #IndústriaBrasileiraDeArmas (Brazilian Weapons Industry) on the weapons lobby and industry in Brazil. The story will be published in a series of three articles on Global Voices Online. This is the second part of the series.

Check out the first post: Brazilian Tear Gas Used Against Turkish Protesters

Stand of the firm Condor in the Brazilian pavilion in Turkey in May, 2013. Some of the items on exhibit are the same which would be used against the Turkish population less than one month later. /Agência Pública/Under Creative Commons license

Condor's stand in the Brazilian pavilion in Turkey in May 2013. Some of the items on display were the same which would be used against the Turkish population less than one month later. Agência Pública/Used under Creative Commons license

Less than one month before the beginning of recent anti-government protests in Turkey, the Brazilian government backed a meeting between national weapons firms and foreign buyers in Istanbul. During the International Defense Industry Fair 2013 in Turkey from May 7 and 10, the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investment (Apex Brasil) and the Brazilian Defense and Security Industries Association (ABIMDE [en]) – whose vice-president, Carlos Frederico Queiroz de Aguiar, is president of Condor – set up an eye-catching display in the Brazilian pavilion.

In the area set aside for Condor, a showcase displayed a variety of metallic projectiles, grenades, and cans of colored sprays, the same as those which would be used a few weeks later in the streets of the same country. Beneath the name of the company in red were ballerina grenades and “diverse defense solutions” – according to the industry jargon – such as 13 types of 40 x 46mm incapacitating munitions for launchers.

Apex hadn't responded to questions about Condor and other Brazilian firms’ incentive in Turkey by the time of this report's publication. According to the Turkish newspaper Sozcu, Minister of Commerce Hayati Yazici stated that in the last 12 months, the country imported 628 tons of tear gas and pepper spray, mostly from Brazil and the United States. These imports were valued at 21 million US dollars.

Condor is the only Brazilian firm that sells weapons to the government of Turkey, according to a statement from their press secretary. In addition to long range projectiles and ballerina grenades, Condor also produces tear gas and pepper sprays, smoke bombs, rubber bullets and stun guns, known as Taser guns.

In 2011, the firm confirmed the sale of weapons to Arab countries, although they denied selling weapons directly to Bahrain, where police cracked down on protesters the following year. Among their clients was the government of the United Arab Emirates, which sent troops in support of the Bahraini government.

In April 2013, Condor signed yet another contract with the government of the UAE, valued at 12 million US dollars, to supply 600,000 units of non-lethal munitions. The agreement was announced during LAADEXPO 2013 [en], the largest defense and security exposition in Latin America, which took place at Riocentro in April.

In February 2013, ABIMDE participated in another weapons fair, this time in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Again, Condor participated in the event as the only Brazilian firm producing non-lethal weapons.

Use of non-lethal weapons questioned in Brazil

Last June 3, 2013, Brazil signed the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations. According to the text, which aims for the elimination of weapons trade for genocide, terrorists, and international organized crime, “trade in conventional weapons would be regulated, establishing standards for their export and promoting more transparency in their transfer.” Considered a great advance for a country which avoids transparency regarding the sale of Brazilian weapons – the Minister of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade refuses to divulge the numbers of firms which export weapons, for example – the treaty doesn't have specific definitions about the trade of non-lethal weapons. Condor's products are sold to more than 40 countries.

The Ministry of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade refuses to divulge data on Brazilian companies which export arms/Agência Pública/Used under Creative Commons license

The Ministry of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade refuses to divulge data on Brazilian companies which export arms. Agência Pública/Used under Creative Commons license

July 03 2013

Brazilian Tear Gas Used Against Turkish Protesters

[All links lead to sites in Portuguese unless specified otherwise. At the time of writing, Condor's website was offline for maintenance.]

This post, written by Bruno Fonseca and Natalia Viana for Agência Pública, was originally published as a report entitled “Bomba brasileira na pele turca”  (Turks Feel a Brazilian Bomb Firsthandand is part of the special coverage #IndústriaBrasileiraDeArmas (Brazilian Weapons Industry) on the weapons lobby and industry in Brazil. The story will be published in a series of three articles on Global Voices Online. This is the first part of the series.

In 2012, when the inscription “Made in Brazil” marked canisters of tear gas used against pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain, allegedly causing the death of more than a dozen people including a five-day-old baby [en], the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations (Itamaraty) announced [en] that it would investigate whether there were any irregularities in the export of Brazilian tear gas.

However, one year later, Itamaraty states that it is simply observing the case without conducting investigations or taking measures.

In an indignant response, American-Saudi activist Rasheed Abou-Alsamh, the author of a news report from January 2012 denouncing the use of Brazilian tear gas against pro-democracy protesters in Bahrein, wrote [en]:

O Itamaraty deve achar que somos ingênuos.

Itamaraty must find us naive.

In the absence of restrictions [from the Brazilian government] on the exportation of non-lethal arms, the same tear gas, manufactured by the firm Condor SA in Rio de Janeiro, is now employed by the Turkish police in repressing the growing protests against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which have spread to more than 60 locations throughout the country, leaving hundreds wounded and estimates of 2,000 arrested.

Amnesty International confirms the use of Brazilian tear gas during the protests – which began after a peaceful protest against the removal of 600 trees in Taksim Square in Istanbul. American professor Suzette Grillot, who is in the capital city of Ankara, photographed one of the Brazilian canisters used by the police and told Agência Pública:

Um membro do nosso grupo encontrou a cápsula na noite de ontem (3 de junho) em Ankara.

A member of our group found the canister last night (June 3) in Ankara.

An American professor photographed one of the Brazilian tear gas projectiles used by the turkish police. Image: Suzette Grillot/ Under license from Creative Commons

An American professor photographed one of the Brazilian tear gas projectiles used by Turkish police. Image: Suzette Grillot/Used under Creative Commons license.

Brazilian tear gas has been used since the beginning of the protests in Istanbul on May 31. One participant of the Occupy Gezi movement, who preferred not to be identified for fear of reprisal, explains:

Naquele dia, havia apenas um grupo pequeno de ambientalistas. A polícia invadiu o parque às 5h da manhã enquanto essas pessoas dormiam nas barracas. Os policiais queimaram barracas e atacaram os manifestantes com gás lacrimogêneo. Os policiais deveriam atirar os projeteis de gás para cima, mas eles miram nas pessoas. Alguns perderam a visão por serem atingidos diretamente (pelos projeteis), outros são atingidos nos braços e pernas. Existem centenas de vídeos mostrando efeitos do gás: lágrimas, náusea, vômito, dificuldade em respirar.

That day, there was just a small group of environmentalists. The police invaded the park at five in the morning while these people were sleeping in their tents. The police burned tents and attacked the protesters with tear gas. The police should have shot the gas canisters up, but they were aiming at people. Some lost their sight by being directly hit [by the canisters], others were hit in the arms or legs. There are hundreds of videos showing the effects of the gas: tears, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing.

The UN Office on Human Rights asked Turkey to conduct an independent investigation into the conduct of its security forces regarding the protests. The spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Cecile Pouilly, stated:

Estamos preocupados com relatos de uso excessivo de força por agentes legais contra manifestantes.

We are concerned with reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement agents against the protesters.

“Non-lethal” weapons do kill

The shell photographed by the American Suzette Grillot is the remains of a long range tear gas canister (GL 202) produced by Condor, a leader in the production of this type of weapon in Latin America. The canister can reach an average distance of 120 meters (394 feet) and should be targeted before or above obstacles such as walls and barricades “in order to remove people and disperse groups of law-offenders,” according to the manufacturers own description. However, Condor states on its site that incorrect use of the canisters can cause serious damage to health — and even death.

Another photo taken by demonstrators shows a random movement tear gas grenade (GL 310), also known as the “ballerina.” Upon impact with the ground, the bomb bounces back up moving in various directions, spreading the gas over a greater area and avoiding the possibility of the “target” throwing it back in the direction of the police force. The company’s site states that the grenade can ignite fires when it comes in contact with flammable materials.

In a photo made public by the demonstrators, the weapons GL 310 and Gl 202 from Condor are shown (1st and 3rd items from left to right). The 2nd weapon from the left is from Nonlethal Technologies, a company from the United States, which is the principal exporter of non-lethal weapons to Turkey, alongside the Brazilian Condor/Under license from Creative Commons

In a photo made public by demonstrators, the weapons GL 310 and Gl 202 from Condor are shown (1st and 3rd items from left to right). The 2nd weapon from the left is from Nonlethal Technologies, a company from the United States, which is the principal exporter of non-lethal weapons to Turkey, alongside the Brazilian Condor/Used under Creative Commons license.

June 28 2013

Composer's Ode to Turkish Protesters

German musician Davide Martello performed live during the protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

This track is dedicated to the Soldiers of Light, the victims of this insane violence by the turkish government. Composed during the protests in Istanbul two weeks ago… live in the crowds on Taksim Square.

That's how the musician describes his composition which is available for download on Soundcloud.

June 27 2013

« Résister ou partir » : le choix d'Halil, Allemand d'origine turque

« Résister ou partir » : le choix d'Halil, Allemand d'origine turque

Delphine Nerbollier

Allemand d'origine turque, Halil Gülbeyaz s'est installé il y a peu à Berlin. Athée, alévi, engagé à gauche, cet écrivain et journaliste est aussi père de deux enfants. Pour myeurop, il explique son choix et partage son regard sans concession sur la politique d'#Erdogan comme de #Merkel. (...)

#Portraits #Allemagne #Turkey #immigration #islam #minorité #Turquie #union_européenne

June 26 2013

What Do Brazil and Turkey Have in Common?

Brazil and Turkey are thousands of kilometers away from each other, but they have something in common: both countries went out to the streets to protest for their rights as citizens and are now struggling against the excessive violence and oppression from the police.

V for Vinegar is a website created to track protests and promote petitions about relevant causes in each country: in Brazil, for the demilitarization of the Police [pt], and for the immediate end to the violence in Turkey [tr].

June 22 2013

Censorship and Police Brutality Mark Three Weeks of Turkish Protests

This post originally appeared on the author's own blog, Azadolu.

It's been three weeks since massive protests started across Turkey. Since their start on May 31, the country has witnessed media censorship, police brutality, protests by the thousands and the deaths and injury of protestors. Here is the summary of past three weeks:

In the early stages of the demonstrations, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defined protesters as “Capulcu“, which translates to looters from Turkish. This action backfired when protesters embraced the label. Protesters even made a music video by changing the lyrics of the song “Everyday I am Shuffling” to sound “Everyday I am Capulcuing”:

Media Censorship:

Even though Turkish mainstream media self-censored the protests, social media was active and is still active in covering the protests. CNNTurk, NTV and Haberturk (the main news channels of Turkey) were all involved in self-censorship. After CNNTurk published a documentary about penguins instead of covering the protests, Twitter user emre erdem tweeted [tr] with sarcasm:

@emreerdem Memlekwt yerinden oynuyor CNNTURK'te penguen belgeseli var, medyamizi seveyim…

The whole country is shaking, but there is a documentary about penguins on CNNTurk. Love our media…

The protests against media censorship continued in front of the NTV headquarters, since the station chose to play down the anti-government protests. Its partner company, Garanti Bank, which is a national bank, was targeted by protesters too – many of whom stopped using its services. The bank announced it had lost around 1,500 customers.

And recently, BBC suspended its cooperation with NTV, after the latter refused to air their programme “World Agenda”.

The programme was prepared by Selin Girit, who tweeted:

@selingiritBBC suspends partnership with Turkish news channel @ntv over television censorship on a piece about press freedom. @bbcworld@bbcturkce

Seven Turkish newspaper ran the same headline on the protests. Photograph shared by @ozlemmisler on Twitter

Seven Turkish newspaper ran the same headline on the protests. Photograph shared by @ozlemmisler on Twitter

There were also some interesting coincidences in the Turkish media's coverage of the protests. Seven different newspapers had the same headline on the same day. Twitter user Ozlem Isler shared a photograph of the newspapers:

@ozlemmisler 7 gazete ayni manset!

Seven newspapers, same headlines!

Police Brutality:

Police brutality was the biggest concern of protesters. A video of policemen detaining a protestor showing on-lookers trying to protect the protestor by throwing whatever they could find on the policemen draws home the sentiment many harbour against police heavy-handedness. Here is the video:

Twitter user Capulcu S A explains the togetherness of the nation against police brutality:

@Sedat2Aral Never been like this… Doctors, Journos, students, artists, actors, business men…all turkey helping each other against Police brutality.

Ethem Sarisuluk's death after being shot by police was certainly the most heartbreaking moment of the protests. The policeman, who killed the protestor, is still missing. Sarisuluk was among four people killed and around 5,000 injured during the protests. The mayor of Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, said on a live TV show [tr] that it wasn't the police who killed him; that it was the other protesters, who killed him by throwing a rock at him. This video, which appeared online following the death, tells a different story. It shows a policeman running away with a gun, after what appears to be shooting a protestor at close range [Warning: graphic]:

You can learn more about police brutality during the protests here.

Social Media: “The Worst Menace to Society”

In return, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vented off his anger at social media and called it “worst menace to society“. Twitter user Pelin explains the reason behind Erdogan's anger by sharing the Bloomberg report about Twitter usage in Turkey during protests:

@BettySpades Data shows why Twitter is a menace to Erdogan. Impact of social media on the gezi protests: #occupygezi#direnankara …


Erdogan was also angry at the protesters who took shelter in a mosque during the police attacks. He told media that protesters dishonored the mosque by entering it with their shoes on, and that they drank alcohol in the mosque. This video here shows the opposite of what Tayyip Erdogan said. In the video, protesters are seen taking refuge in the mosque, with doctors treating injured people (Warning: graphic video):

Contradicting Messages:

Huseyin Avni Mutlu, the governor of Istanbul, also gave contradicting messages. On his Twitter account, he wrote there will not be any attacks on Gezi Park, where the protests began, by the police. Just hours later, the police attacked Gezi Park:

@Valimutlu GEZİ PARKI ve TAKSİM’e KESİNLİKLE DOKUNULMAYACAK,SİZLERE ASLA DOKUNULMAYACAKTIR.Bu sabah ve bundan sonra polis kardeşlerinize emanetsiniz.

Gezi Park and Taksim will not be touched, nobody will touch you. You are entrusted to your police brothers since this morning and henceforth.

Twitter user Utangac Adam replied to the governor:

@UtangacAdam Büyüklerimiz “İnsanlığın okulu yok” derdi.Şimdi ne demek istediklerini daha iyi anlıyorum… @Valimutlu

Our elders would always say “There is no school for learning humanity”. Now, I understand them better…

Prime minister Erdogan arranged several rallies for his supporters, including in Ankara and Istanbul. Erdogan threatened the protesters to clear Gezi Park by calling them terrorists. After his statement on clearing the Gezi Park from protesters, Turkish police attacked Gezi Park on June 16, and took control over Taksim Square and Gezi Park.

Passive Resistance: Standing Man Protests

Now the protests have turned into a passive resistance. The Duran Adam (Standing Man) protests started by a performance artist, Erdem Gunduz, who stood at Taksim Square without moving for three hours. Similar protests spread quickly all over the country.  Poet Bejan Matur said on her Twitter account:

@bejanmatur duran adam;tc tarihinin gördüğü en sofistike eylem;.iktidarın asla baş edemeyeceği şahane bir performans.

Standing Man is the most sophisticated protest in the history of Turkish Republic. A great performance that the ruling party cannot deal with, ever.

Turkish people showed their desire for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation over the last three weeks. Even though the policemen were fierce, politicians were angry and the media was silent, they continued on their journey for a better life. Perhaps this video of protesters cheering sarcastically for more teargas to be thrown on them by the police speaks volumes of their ambition for a better country and a better tomorrow:

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