March 27, 2014, Thursday

Fuat Avni: the reason Erdoğan banned Twitter?

Fuat Avni: the reason Erdoğan banned Twitter?
(Photo: Today's Zaman)

Having more than 12 million users, Turkey was one of the leading countries in the world connected to Twitter. No more.

Perceiving Twitter as a major platform for protesting his regime, Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the blocking of the site. “Twitter schmitter,” said Erdoğan. “We will wipe out all of these. The international community can say this, can say that. I don't care at all.”

Twitter users in Turkey have divergent styles. Some will generally share news stories, others prefer direct interactive engagement with others. Few, however, use Twitter as a venue to publish their ideas. Instead of interacting, they primarily focus on sharing their story in a series of tweets, often numbered consecutively. Fuat Avni is one of them. Using a pseudonym, Fuat Avni stands out with an important feature that makes him unique: targeting Prime Minister Erdoğan by revealing his everyday interactions.

Fuat Avni attracts thousands of new followers every single day. In a few weeks, he has reached over 600,000 followers. Shrouded in mystery, he reveals interesting anecdotes as a close associate of the prime minister. Rumors are flying: He was one of Erdoğan's advisors. No, he still is an advisor to him. Maybe he is not a “he.” Could Fuat Avni be Erdoğan's wife? And then, why assume that he or she is singular? How about the possibility that this account is owned by several Ankara bureaucrats?   

Fuat Avni is not only an excellent storyteller. His tweets provide a constant stream of information targeting the prime minister. Why are these unverifiable rumors attracting millions? The devil is in details. A few days before Erdoğan's electoral rally in Tekirdağ, Fuat Avni tweeted about an upcoming tactic in the rally: “Some will pretend to pass out during the rallies due to crowdedness. And Erdoğan will stop his speech and pay attention to them. Cheap tactics, acting as if he is a folk hero!”    

The more of his forecasts turn out to be true, the more followers he will gain for sure. But the path to become a celebrity has other dimensions, such as style. Fuat Avni's tweets often end with the haunting refrain, “Korkma, Titre!” (Don't just be afraid, tremble!) In his interview with T24, a major Turkish online newspaper, Fuat Avni claimed that Erdoğan and his associates are truly afraid of his tweets. He said that he personally witnessed Erdoğan's advisors turning to one another, asking who Fuat Avni is.    

When you become a celebrity, you surely have fans that emulate your account. Now, Fuat Anvi, @fuatanvi, an account for mockery and political satire, is on his path to celebrity. Having opened his account last week, he enjoys more than 17,000 followers. He will be gaining followers rapidly, but only if Erdoğan decides to remove the ban.