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Post and your life will be ruined

Under the state of emergency, the exponential increase day by day in the number of citizens who are arrested for their social media posts is giving rise to a fear of social media in society. Many citizens have closed their social media accounts.
Yayınlanma tarihi: 13 Şubat 2018 Salı, 13:04

Housewife B.A. speaks of waking her son in the night and getting him to delete her Twitter account following the arrests. Teacher F.S. is steering clear of social media with the concern, “I don’t want to stay silent and want to post, but if I do so my life will be ruined.” Academic Y.C., for his part, says, “If you don’t use social media, the dean’s office perceives you to be hiding something. It’s become an uphill struggle.”

Seyhan Avşar

The Interior Ministry has launched investigations into thousands of people for their social media posts. According to the ministry’s data, in the last six months of 2016, investigations were initiated and judicial proceedings instigated into ten thousand people with social media posts cited as grounds. Social media has attracted even more judicial attention following the launching of Turkey’s Afrin Operation. There have been arrests of many people who have criticised the operation. According to the official announcement made by the ministry on 5 February, this number now stands at 449.

Under the state of emergency proclaimed following the 15 July coup attempt, many public workers have been expelled from their institutions with their social media posts cited as grounds. The exponential increase day by day in the number of citizens who are sacked, arrested and detained for their social media posts is giving rise to a fear of social media in society. Many citizens have closed their social media accounts. Those that have not done so, on the other hand, take care not to make political posts and include posts on their accounts by politicians they do not believe in for fear of being sacked. Our newspaper has heard from people who have been victimised thanks to social media and who worry about their posts.

“I don’t want to be detained”

Housewife B.A.’s husband is a civil servant in a public department. Her eldest son, in turn, is a lawyer who spends his days running around the judicial complex corridors. It was not long before B.A., having become acquainted with social media thanks to her children, became an active Twitter user. B.A. said, “With the proclamation of the state of emergency, a TV station that I followed and which I believed was conveying the truth was closed. I followed the evening news but I was angry with them because I believed they were giving slanted coverage of the news. During the daytime, however, rather than watching women’s programmes once my jobs were done, I found out about the unseen things from Twitter.” B.A., indicating that initially she just looked at the posts but, as time passed, she also began to make posts, commented, “I began to make posts about events where I felt injustice had been done. The way things are going, you are afraid to speak to your neighbour because even your neighbour might be an informer. I screamed out there what was on my mind and what I couldn’t say or speak about.” Until one day her son came home and said, “Lots of social media users are under arrest. Take care what you post.” B.A. saying that the danger hit her that night, said, “I went to my son’s room at something like two in the morning and told him, ‘Son, do me a favour, get up. Delete that Twitter. I don’t want to be detained.’ And so I said goodbye to the only place where I could express my thoughts.” B.A., for her part, is determined not to use social media until the days come when she will not be arrested and her children’s and husband’s work will not suffer.

“I closed my accounts”

F.Ş. is a class teacher who has been unable to secure an appointment. F.Ş., having awaited appointment for many years, has fully given up hope of being appointed following the introduction of the interview system. F.Ş., saying, “I don’t think like them. It would take a miracle for me to be appointed,” is currently working at a rehabilitation centre. A long-time social media user, F.Ş. recently closed all his social media accounts. F.Ş., speaking of his inability to use social media freely, said, “There is heavy pressure on us. Our social media posts affect our futures. In particular, they are used as evidence against those trying to enter public bodies. We are excluded on account of our thoughts and posts. We are branded traitors, suffer attack and are detained.” F.Ş., noting that freedom of expression had been destroyed in our country, commented, “A climate of fear has been created. I have reached the stage at which I cannot even voice my thoughts on social media. Of late, I had begun to apply self-censorship. I saw this wasn’t going to work. On the one hand I’m scared, on the other hand I don’t want to stay silent and want to post, but if I do so my life will be ruined. I thought the best thing was to steer clear of social media before something untoward happened to me. I closed all my accounts.”

“You’ll be worse off”

Mahir Aslan was a civil servant of eight-years’ standing at Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Following the 15 July coup attempt, Aslan was initially suspended with no reason given in August. He was later dismissed. Aslan brought legal action for reinstatement and his social media posts containing the interpretation, “Let God come to our aid” with reference to the internal security bill and Selahattin Demirtaş’s comment, “We will not permit you to be president” were submitted in evidence to the court by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Aslan, recounting that despite not having been very active on social media two posts he had made were placed in the file as evidence, said, “They are trying to create a society of fear. Everyone is petrified. Maybe people are going to post their non-political feelings and human thoughts, but are unable even to post these for fear that a different spin will nevertheless be put on them.” Aslan commented, “There are people in my circles who say, ‘Don’t raise your voice. The guys have clout. You’ll end up worse off.’ But, they do not realise that if we remain silent everything will get even worse. So, I don’t want people to be afraid. People must know that civilisations and technology do not constantly move forward. If the form of government is dictatorship, these concepts will of necessity clash.”

“Social media is a criterion for promotion”

Y.C. is an academic at an Istanbul-based university. He closed his social media accounts for a while because he was writing a thesis. A lecturer cautioned him, “If you don’t use social media you are hiding something. This is how the dean’s office perceives it. Use social media. Post your school’s events on your accounts.” Y.C., noting that he read articles from foreign sources on social media, commented, “Everything from a person’s friends to their political views and sexual preferences can be analysed from social media. So, even if people start to steer clear of it, questions then arise as to what they may be hiding.” Y. C., stressing that somebody working in the public sector has to act far more carefully, opined, “When you’re a public servant, you need to think what kind of posts you’re going to make. You’re going to post Anadolu Agency reports. In the academic world, social media posts are a criterion for promotion.”

“I have hindered 400,000 people”

Fashion designer Barbaros Şansal was deported from Cyprus due to a Tweet he was alleged to have posted following the Reina Massacre. He was subjected to a mauling while being arrested at Istanbul airport. Şansal was ordered into detention by the court he was brought before and dispatched to jail. He was subsequently released. But the court sentenced Şansal to eight months’ imprisonment for having committed the offence of “publicly denigrating the Turkish people and the State of the Republic of Turkey.” The court, taking account of Şansal’s positive demeanour at the hearing, reduced the sentence to six months and twenty days. Şansal, saying that he had suffered attack for a fabricated fake screen shot, said, “Using social media is like playing atari for me. I am subjected to insults and abuse from AK trolls. I am singled out. I hinder them. I have hindered 400,000 people.” Şansal, indicating that despite having complained through the Prime Ministry Communications Centre about people who make death threats against him and commit hate crimes no action had been taken, said that nothing happens to pro-regime people. Şansal said, “If you say “no” to war or child abuse in this country or are opposed to radical Islam and the rulership, your social media posts are cited as grounds and you are beaten up and arrested as the morning dawns.”

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Selahattin Demirtaş