Yesterday’s letter in this column from the Prime Minister of Turkey was a dismal and laughable attempt to justify the systematic erosion of democracy and individuals’ rights that his government has undertaken since the attempted coup a year ago. Turkey’s international partners are increasingly concerned at the rights abuses, with the UK Parliament recently reporting on political purges in which, “large numbers have been punished on the basis of a broad and vague definition of terrorism and a worryingly low threshold of evidence”.
In the latest sign that Turkey is now facing state repression and propaganda of truly Orwellian proportions, Turks seeking to make a phone call last weekend on the anniversary of the failed July 15 coup were surprised to be put straight through to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After dialling a number, instead of being connected, mobile phone users heard a voice message from Erdogan congratulating them on the national holiday of “democracy and unity” that marks the coup’s defeat. Only after Erdogan’s message did the dial tone begin.
“As president, I send congratulations on the July 15 National Day of Democracy and Unity and wish the martyrs mercy and the heroes (of the defeat of the coup) health and wellbeing,” said the message.
AFP reports that “The message could be heard on Turkey’s largest network Turkcell ... The Hurriyet daily said it was also heard on the Vodafone network.
“People who wanted to chat on the telephone got an Erdogan surprise,” said Hurriyet.
Turkcell had already sent text messages to clients promising them a free extra gigabyte of data from July 15 in celebration of the coup’s defeat.
Hijacking public infrastructure in this way to intrude on the private lives of citizens, pouring propaganda straight into their ears, sounds like a move taken straight from a page of “1984”. Unfortunately, under Erdogan, the Turkish people are suffering creeping dictatorship.