After a two-week ban that enraged the public and received international criticism, Turkey has finally restored Twitter and YouTube.
The sites were initially banned on March 20 in an effort to cover up a scandal involving Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. The bans were lifted by the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest court. The lifting of the ban is a success for freedom of expression, but a blow for Erdogan’s heavily criticized regime.
Now that the bans have been lifted, many assume Turkey can go back to being the strong, secular U.S. ally that it has always been. But this is not so. With an oppressive prime minister like Erdogan in power, the Twitter ban is the least of Turkey’s worries.
Erdogan was elected in 2002 under the guise of a commitment to democracy. His Islamic political party provided hope for the largely Muslim population of Turkey that religion could be reintegrated into Turkish politics without sacrificing freedom and democracy.
After World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Atatürk established the modern, secular and democratic nation-state of Turkey. Under his reform, political and civil rights were guaranteed to the people.
Ever since Atatürk’s reforms in the 1920s, Turkey has worked to maintain these ideals, which is why Erdogan’s actions are met with such harsh criticism by the Turkish people.
While Erdogan’s party has made many economic strides for Turkey, their freedom of press and upholding of human rights have been lacking. According to CNN, Turkey has led the world in the number of journalists jailed, ahead of Iran, Afghanistan and China. Erdogan banned YouTube for two years starting in 2007, abolished the Pledge of Allegiance to a secular Turkey and committed countless human rights violations during last summer’s Taksim protests.
His attempted Islamic democracy now has strong authoritarian undertones to it. The censorship, police brutality in Taksim and continued imprisonment of journalists for publishing anti-Erdogan material has moved Turkey away from the progressive democratic nation that it once was.
While Turkish voters have previously overlooked these infringements, recently a whirlwind of corruption rumors have been released to the public that will be hard to ignore.
Audio clips of a phone call between Erdogan and his son were posted to Twitter by an unknown source, in which Erdogan can be heard plotting to steal millions of Euros in illegal cash.
Erdogan responded that the recordings were edited in an effort to overthrow him, and proceeded to increase censorship and shut down the social media sites.
Although the Constitutional Court of Turkey has lifted the ban, the problem remains. The country that was once the West’s most stable and reliable ally has fallen into a backward slide.
Even President Barack Obama, a long-time friend of Erdogan, has criticized his actions.
A statement from the White House was released saying, “We oppose this restriction on the Turkish people’s access to information, which undermines their ability to exercise freedoms of expression and association, and runs contrary to the principles of open governance.”
The promise of an Islamic democracy has not been carried out, and the political and civil advancements forged by Atatürk have been disregarded.
Turkish citizens have taken to the Internet to express their frustrations with Erdogan only to be met with an unconstitutional ban. The Twitter scandal is only a small infraction in Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
Natalie Pimblett is a junior political science major.