Access to YouTube has been cut off in Turkey after an explosive leak of audiotapes that appeared to show ministers talking about provoking military intervention in Syria. Other social media have already been blocked ahead of tumultuous local elections.
The latest leaked audio recording, which reportedly led to the ban, appears to show top government officials discussing a potential attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
The tomb is in Syrian territory, but protected by Turkish soldiers.
On the tape, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is heard to say that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sees any attack as an “opportunity” to increase Turkish presence in Syria, where it has staunchly supported the anti-Assad rebels. Security chief Hakan Fidan then goes one step further, and suggests staging a fake attack to give Turkey a casus belli to intervene in the conflict.
Turkish officials have recently vowed to protect the tomb as its “national soil.”
The Foreign Ministry in Ankara reacted to the tape by issuing a statement, calling the leak a “wretched attack” on national security. It also claims the tape was “partially manipulated.”
“These treacherous gangs are the enemies of our state and people. The perpetrators of this attack targeting the security of our state and people will be uncovered in the shortest time and will be handed over to justice to be given the heaviest penalty,” the ministry said.
A source inside the office of President Abdullah Gül, who has taken a softer line than Erdoğan over the series of government leaks, told Reuters that access to YouTube may be restored if the sensitive content is removed, even though the original video has been deleted.
Invoking national security and privacy concerns has been the government’s tactic in fighting off a stream of leaks showing top officials engaging in unsavory or downright illegal practices.
Erdoğan has also repeatedly claimed that most of the audio recordings are fakes. He labeled the latest audio revelation “villainous” during a stump speech in Diyabakir.
Twitter, another popular source for leaks, has already been shut down in Turkey since March 20, after a court order.
CONFIRMED #Youtube officially banned in #Turkey. pic.twitter.com/vvPrTYfVEI
— Marko Veselinovic_RT (@marko_ves) March 27, 2014
Since then, the California-based social network and organizations have fought in several courts to have the decision reversed, calling it “disproportionate and illegal.”
A court ruling in Ankara on Wednesday supported the appeal, but the country’s regulator has a month to unblock Twitter, leading to speculation that any such move would only take place after the election.
The incumbent party also enjoys the benefit of robust privacy legislation passed last month, which makes it easy to cut off any website even before any violation has been legally proven.
The US has led the chorus of international condemnation, calling the government’s moves “censorship” tantamount to “21st century book-burning.”
TURKEY’S DAVUTOGLU SAYS LEAK IS ‘DECLARATION OF WAR’: TURKIYE
As we noted here, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had blocked Twitter access to his nation ahead of what was rumored to be a “spectacular” leak before this weekend’s elections. Then this morning, amid a mad scramble, he reportedly (despite the nation’s court ruling the bans illegal) blocked YouTube access. However, by the magic of the interwebs, we have the ‘leaked’ clip and it is clear why he wanted it blocked/banned. As the rough translation explains, it purports to be a conversation between key Turkish military and political leaders discussing what appears to be a false flag attack to launch war with Syria.
Among the most damning sections:
Ahmet Davutolu: “Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.”
Hakan Fidan: “I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”
Feridun Sinirliolu: “Our national security has become a common, cheap domestic policy outfit.”
Ya?ar Güler: “It’s a direct cause of war. I mean, what’re going to do is a direct cause of war.”
Feridun Sinirolu: There are some serious shifts in global and regional geopolitics. It now can spread to other places. You said it yourself today, and others agreed… We’re headed to a different game now. We should be able to see those. That ISIL and all that jazz, all those organizations are extremely open to manipulation. Having a region made up of organizations of similar nature will constitute a vital security risk for us. And when we first went into Northern Iraq, there was always the risk of PKK blowing up the place. If we thoroughly consider the risks and substantiate… As the general just said…
Yaar Güler: Sir, when you were inside a moment ago, we were discussing just that. Openly. I mean, armed forces are a “tool” necessary for you in every turn.
Ahmet Davutolu: Of course. I always tell the Prime Minister, in your absence, the same thing in academic jargon, you can’t stay in those lands without hard power. Without hard power, there can be no soft power.