Turkey is Typing: You Tube “Should I Stay or Should I Go”

Last week Global Voices reported on the temporary ban the Republic of Turkey put on media site YouTube. The background of the issue stems from a single video posted by a Greek accusing the founder of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as being gay. In response to this video, which was deemed as “Insulting Turkishness”, a court in Turkey blocked all access of YouTube within Turkey. When the offending video was removed, access was again granted. Turkish reaction has come in a variety of forms: anger at the Greeks and the entire situation, anger at the Turkish government's reaction, and outright embarrassment.

Childish Anger

From the international community standpoint, the entire situation is seen as a childish display:

Ordinarily, a ridiculous exchange like this stays in the schoolyard. Those posting may actually still be in grade school, for all that anyone knows. With the global commons that is emerging online, however, governments prone to meddling with free speech no longer know what to leave on the kiddie table and what to treat as dangerous. Which just serves to illustrate how ridiculous government concern over “insulting Turkishness,” as the law phrases it, are. Adults in a free society should not be so delicate as to require government protection from juvenile insults to their nationality or religion. Taking these taunts so seriously only brings them greater attention and dramatizes a deep insecurity in those who feel so insulted.

Me and Others lashes out at the Greeks:

i have seen some very patriotic greeks who dont hesitate to use the lowest vocabulary the english language may contain against turks and our values, and yet cannot represent any bit of opinion which resembles… an opinion. even though i am pretty much sure that these people are supported by the ultra nationalist greek groups which might even have links to the greek government, lets forget about such allegations for a second. lets say that these people are indivuals who decide to attack the values turks have, and they are not backed by any groups by no means and they are alone. ok. so what does that mean? the low mind-state of these human like creatures gives a good idea of what they teach in greek schools: hatred. it is so sad that people of a nation who claim to have a very rich history and cultural assets can come up with nothing but hatred only. from this point of view, it is not Ataturk or the turks they humiliate, but only themselves.

Turkish Anger

Of course, the majority of the anger has been focused on the Turkish Government itself. From Athanasia's Daily:

Because some videos contain insulting claims on Atatürk, Istanbul First Criminal Peace Court decided that we the Turkish people should no longer have access to YouTube! Are you out of your mind?! I have serious doubts if these bureacrats know what internet means and what YouTube looks like. People, internet is something that is designed for everyone's access and participation. It is even thought as a “public sphere”. That is to say, there should be no censorship in internet and everyone should be able to express whatever they think. OK, Atatürk issue is something that we are highly sensitive about and it may argued that Turkish people were right to react those videos. However you dont have the right of blocking our access to the entire YouTube. This is called censorship.

From Metroblogging:Istanbul

I am not totally surprised but it is still surprising; as a citizen of Turkey i know how mighty steps can be taken by the State in case of emergency. One of the most popular websites, YouTube is banned in Turkey for a single video. All the background can be found here or here. The video is ugly. It insults the founder of the Republic. Like it or not, Atatürk is a sacred figure for most of Turkish citizens. And an insulting video would trigger such a popular reaction. However, would it be necessary to legally stop the access to Youtube?

Me and Others points out the absurdity in blocking the Greek video but not others:

there are tons of pkk propaganda in youtube, there are videos showing how kurdish terrorists kill turkish troops, followed by kurdish terror lovers praising the videos, and yet, i havent seen a word been talked about it. so, to be honest, i think the new turkish generation should find a way to get rid of these so old minded decision makers, who ever they might be, or who knows, maybe the blogger.com might be prevented too because of my humble post here.


Erkan's Field Diary sums up the embarrassment of the situation the best: “Our daily, hourly, minutely self inflicted humiliation in the eyes of world continue.”

Part of the problem was also the reaction of the Turkish people (not just the government) to threats against their identity, as Mavi Boncuk states:

It is time for Turks everywhere to grow up. Stop fighting the world by choking e-mail boxes. Do meaningful things before “Interneti alan Uskudari Gecmeden.”

Stop asking “ulufe’ from the coffers of Turkish Nation. The structure of nation to nation business only works with top level approaches. Hiring lobbyist is only natural. Go beyond these hang ups. Truth will prevail if the Turkish Diaspora can come out of their ghettos of the mind and make friends in the communities they live in, master languages, be politically active and volunteer. It is a long trek and is the only way to reach a destination. Read, investigate, discuss, disseminate information, make your ideas known to others and stop crying over spilled YouTube.

What now?

According to Erkan's Field Diary, the ban on YouTube was not lifted because of protests from the Turkish people:

I am 100% sure, Turkish citizens were not effective in revoking the ban but our elders finally thought this was to be great damage to the national reputation.

What I have presented here is only a fraction of what has been said about this issue. I would be curious to hear what you have to say on the topic. What is your opinion on government censorship? Are their instances where censorship is a benefit to the people? What limits can be put on “Insulting Turkishness” and how far outside of the Republic of Turkey should the prosecuting of such extend?


  • Kaya Ozalp

    What do you expect of a government that handles Transportation and Telecommunication on the same ministry.

    “Ataturk is the founder of the modern Turkey” but no-one followed his lead and now Turkey is going back step-by-step.

  • YouTube banned in Turkey? How ridiculous!
    Okay… last I checked this incident worked itself out and it’s now behind us. Should we all beat our knees in shame? No. Let’s get over it. A lapse in judgment should not result in Turks adding more insult to injury, upon themselves. I for one am not embarrassed by the government’s actions. They made a decision.. and then later changed course on the matter. The governments of far “greater countries” have done far worse.. The banning of YouTube in Turkey, was in my humble opinion, designed to get the attention of YouTube, with the mistaken belief that they might actually care and take TOS action.. Bygones.
    Meanwhile, the ‘Borat’ movie is flying off the shelves in Kazakhstan?
    Duuuuhhhhh… we should be more like them Kazakis… duuuhhhhhh.
    Tolerance of malicious humiliation is not a virtue.. That’s all I can say.

  • Nobody is discussing the ‘underlying’ problem here though. YouTube or the government’s action is not really the point here. It’s Ataturk! How much longer will this guy be treated in such a way for any discussion about him in any light except for the most flattering (albeit he’s deservant) is likely to cause heartache within the Ataturkism religionists. Which do you think will cause more protesters in Turkey? Cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed or Ataturk? Is this another ‘taboo?’

    From a past post titled “Taking the ‘Boo’ out of Taboo:” on my blog TalkTurkey

    “Why do we have to defer all of our current and foreseen obligations to the man (or the symbolism of such idolatry,) whom we call the father of our country?”

  • “If you aint got no money take your broke [bleep] home”

    “This aint a scene, it’s a [bleep-bleep] arms race”

    These are the lyrics we listen to here in the US, censored by the radio stations to avoid 1/2 million dollar fines from the US government. The words “god damned” and “ass” are illegal for some reason? Why the double standard? Why is it OK for the US to censor the most trivial and asinine issues imaginable, yet when Turkey takes action in defense of our national hero, it’s such a big effing deal?

    To answer your question Metin: IMHO there would be more protesters of Ataturk cartoons than of Mohamed cartoons.

  • You don’t take ‘action’ by shutting down access. You provide access through ‘other’ mediums (i.e. cable, pay-per-view, satellite radio, etc.) and/or ‘ratings’ on albums where both versions are available for those offended and those defended. So it’s not an apples to apples comparison AT.

    The more you protect the untouchable status of ‘Ata,’ the less likely will be the chances of ‘outsiders’ quitting their indefensible actions. Remember, they’re (including I) not subject to Article 301 or any other ‘restriction’ outside of the borders of Turkey.

    Maybe I should pose the question as, would there be more protesters (some deadly) if cartoons depicting Jesus or George Washington or Buddha or Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa or Saint John or Napoleon or The Czar or any other father of any other country or people in a not so complimentary light versus you know who? And fill in the blank.

    Why such an obsession to protect an individual? If he’s so holy, shouldn’t we be not so afraid to open it up for submission? Isn’t it a double standard to argue the Armenian Genocide claims are not sufficient and we have nothing to hide and come look at our archives . . . but yet when it comes to Ataturk, we’re afraid to open it up for anyone to look into it.

    Wouldn’t the Armenians think we’re full of shi* if we’re so protective of things we’re so enamored with?

    Is that what Ataturk would do if he was alive today? Wouldn’t he welcome the criticism if there is none to be justifiable?

    By overly protecting, aren’t we suggesting the ‘hiding’ of some truth when it fact it may not be the case?

    Or are we so stupid as people that we are afraid some of us will abuse that privilege, and what does that say about us?

    Things that make you go hmmmmm…..

  • […] ‘Turksihness’ and Atatürk is also illegal under Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code. Between 2007 and 2008, YouTube was banned in Turkey, due to videos that insulted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk — […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.