#Provocateur battle: Turkish standoff spills onto Twitter
Women chant slogans on Taksim square in Istanbul on June 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)
Protests in Turkey have taken Twitter by storm, with activists and government supporters battling it out on the social network. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan claimed the most violent protests in a decade are caused by extremists and foreign provocateurs.
While Turkish press were slow to cover the anti-government protests that have gripped the country for the past week, Twitter users wasted no time sounding off.
Several hashtags relating to the violent upheaval have popped up on the social network and trended worldwide. After Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan returned from North Africa and gave a speech to the cheering supporters who greeted him at Istanbul’s airport, the hashtag #ProvokatörEylemci (‘provocateur activists’) topped the list.
The hashtag pools together Twitter users who are echoing Erdogan’s accusation that the protests are motivated by extremists and foreign provocateurs. The Turkish leader said that the protest should stop immediately, condemned activists as “vandals” and defended the use of force to suppress them.
A large proportion of those using the hashtag are members of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its youth branch. RT source Beyza Burcak said she was inclined to believe the hashtag “appeared arbitrarily,” while it was possible that the AKP created it to discredit the protesters.
“He [Erdogan] keeps saying that there are vandals in the protest who destroy everything in streets etc. but from the beginning the aim of this protest has been to be peaceful,” Burcak told RT.
On Saturday, the tables turned and the hashtag #provokatörbaşbakanİstemiyoruz (‘provocateur we don’t want the Prime Minister’) topped the Twitter trending list. Simultaneously, thousands of activists gathered for a mass sit-in at Taksim Square to protest Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
Demonstrators cheer as they stand near a tent on Taksim square in Istanbul on June 7, 2013. (AFP Photo / Gurcan Ozturk)
Hackivist group Anonymous and the Syrian Electronic Army also joined the cyber-battle, saying they hacked the Turkish Prime Minister’s network and stole personal information during the week. Erdogan’s office confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that the cyber-attack had occurred.
“Anonymous has successfully infiltrated Turkish Prime Ministry’s network (basbakanlik.gov.tr). Anonymous is sharing with you the full user list of the domain BASBAKANLIK that is the main domain of the Prime Ministry of Turkey,” the hackivist group tweeted. A group calling itself @AnonsTurkey went on to praise Gezi Turkey as one of the most noble current social movements.
The group said they did not publicly release the information they hacked “because Anonymous respects people’s privacy.”
The social upheaval began in Turkey last week when police cracked down violently on a group of protesters demonstrating against the demolition of Gezi Park. Clashes between police and protesters, some of whom called for Erdogan to step down, followed the initial outbreak.
The EU has called for a probe into police conduct during the protests after numerous reports of excessive force being used to disperse activists, with three people dead and thousands more injured in clashes between police and demonstrators. Prime Minister Erdogan responded by accusing the EU of hypocrisy, claiming that such tactics were commonplace in other European countries and the US.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan salutes supporters upon arrival at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul on June 7, 2013. (AFP Photo / Ozan Kose)