The enigmatic Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, banned Twitter in his country earlier today, according to a report from the Hurriyet Daily News, an English-language daily in Turkey.
“We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic,” Erdoğan said at his campaign rally in the western city of Bursa on March 20, 10 days before the upcoming local elections.
A display of power that will surely rank with Constantinople and Gallipoli, a piece in The Wire reports that Erdogan’s decision to ban Twitter appears to have come in response to charges of corruption made by Turks using the social network.
Audio recordings that appear to be of Erdogan involved in government corruption were posted on Twitter by an anonymous account, just weeks before local elections in the country. Erdogan has denied that the recordings are legitimate but apparently decided it was better to be safe than sorry and just get rid of Twitter altogether.
Erdogan, who last year authorized the arrests of over two dozen people for anti-government tweets, also threatened to ban YouTube and Facebook if need be.
It’s the end result of a new law passed last month by the Turkish Parliament, which gives the Prime Minister a greater say in naming judges and prosecutors, as well as greater authority to block web pages. Given the power that Erdogan now has over not only the internet in Turkey, but over the stewards of Turkish law, the bill might be compared to some unholy logrolling of Roosevelt’s court-packing plan combined with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Ironically enough, Abdullah Gul, the Turkish President who speedily approved the law on February 18th, took to his Twitter account to justify his decision. To his credit, the President now says it is unacceptable for the prime minister to impose complete bans on social media like Twitter.
Francis Fukuyama be damned, history has certainly returned with a vengeance to both sides of the Black Sea. But given how Turkish youth responded to last year’s attempt by their government to crush a public forum in Gezi Park, and given how they clashed with police during a funeral for Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries sustained during the Gezi Park protests, don’t be surprised if the riot police are again out in force on the streets of Istanbul before this week is through.