Turkish authorities raided several homes and arrested almost sixteen people for ‘inciting rebellion and spreading propaganda via social media’ on Tuesday.
As disturbing as it may sound, these arrests were inevitable. Following Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s statement this week about social media platforms, everyone saw it coming. When Erdogan called social media, especially Twitter, the biggest menace of the society, it was clear that he had something in his mind regarding the issue. After all, he was called a modern-day sultanby many. How was he not going to react!
#Errdogan; authoritarianism and religiously conservative meddling in private lives in the secular republic. behaving like modern-day sultan— Farooq Tariq (@Farooqtariq3) June 2, 2013
After things got rough between the police force and the protesters occupying the Gezi Park in Istanbul, many Turks turned towards social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and video streaming site YouTube for help.
The country’s state media was completely ignoring the police brutality incidents and the Gezi Park activists felt that their part of the story was not being told. In order to get themselves heard, to tell their story to the world, they posted photos, blogs, notes and mobile phone videos on different social media networks which are the best possible way to connect to the world via internet.
What according to the Turkish government is ‘inciting rebellion and spreading propaganda’ is actually a source of executing freedom of speech for the Turkish protesters. These arrests are probably not going to be healthy for the reconciliation efforts between the people and the Turkish government. In fact, the arrests have sort of confirmed the fact that social media is indeed playing a powerful role in the country and the government dreads it.
By arresting the people for writing against the government’s policies will further strengthen the anti-Erdogan sentiment which is the driving force behind the demonstrations in Turkey. Taking people into custody for tweeting and Facebooking is only going to provide fuel to the fire of disagreement.
It mostly comes on the government’s part actually that the protests are occurring in the first place. Had there been no use of force by the authorities when the people came to Gezi Park for a peaceful sit-in, there would have been no retaliation which consequently led to the ongoing demonstrations.
The fight in Turkey is not a fight against Islamization or radicalization. It has become something more than that; it’s a fight for basic individual rights. People from all walks of life and religion are participating in it because it has more to it than religion. And the last thing these protests need are more arrests.
But that, unfortunately, is not happening.