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March 24, 2014, Monday

Is Turkey hostage to Erdoğan’s fate?

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave signals that this would happen before; but frankly speaking, nobody believed that he would actually do it because it is not easy to block Twitter.

 The government's move to block Twitter in Turkey clearly reveals its mood and mindset; this is typical “panic attack” pathology.

Members of the government are acting so recklessly that they are unable to appreciate that their attempts to block Twitter will not be effective and that this move will simply attract greater attention to the social media platform. The government is now in a pathetic situation. And, of course, everybody now realizes that it is extremely intimidated by the grave allegations against it. Those who retained their belief in the authenticity of the corruption allegations are now wondering whether or not they might actually be true.

When discussing possible reactions from the international community, Erdoğan said he would not care about any negative reactions to a Twitter ban. This is as grave as the ban itself. Turkey is a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe and is involved in membership talks with the European Union. It is also party to a number of international conventions, including the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). And these conventions are legally binding. This means that Turkey is not North Korea; it is part of the international community. It also claims to be dedicated to democratic values. So how could the prime minister say that he does not care about reactions from the international community? Or will he argue that banning Twitter is an internal matter?

Twitter and other social media platforms are communication tools that symbolize the characteristics of this age. Banning Twitter, therefore, is to fight against the realities of the age. And nobody has won such a fight so far.

Members of the international community, particularly the EU and the US, have issued strong warnings and statements saying that the ban constitutes a grave violation of the freedoms of expression and communication. One of the most forceful and influential of these reactions was the statement by the US State Department. Douglas Frantz, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy at the US State Department, described blocking Twitter as a 21st century version of book burning and added that this would not make the perpetrators any stronger. And I agree that the Twitter ban is a violation of freedom and democracy that is as grave as burning books, magazines and newspapers.

Joseph Goebbels, the head of the propaganda machine in Nazi Germany, believed that dissenting voices needed to be silenced to create a full-fledged Nazi dictatorship. One of his most infamous moves in this direction was the burning of thousands of books in Bebelplatz in Berlin on May 10, 1933. Germany, known for its outsize contributions to philosophy and literature, instigated book burnings before outlawing the expression of all ideas that were in opposition to Nazi sentiments. And finally, they also burned many German citizens.

The Twitter ban has confirmed that Erdoğan feels so threatened that he is ready to do anything to preserve his power. He is also ready to take the whole country down with him if he falls. The Syrian warplane which was recently shot down because, the Turkish government claims, it violated the country's airspace raises questions as to whether Erdoğan is ready to wage a war right before the elections to make sure that the corruption allegations are forgotten. I can no longer say that Erdoğan and his government will not rely on such extreme and desperate options. A person who says he will “root out” Twitter is capable of anything.

Erdoğan's desperation to hold on to power is hurting Turkey. But he cannot escape his fate. And Turkey's fate does not depend on Erdoğan's fate and future.

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