For weeks, YouTube has flummoxed Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It started in early March, when Erdogan spoke of social media as though it was an invading army. “We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook,” Mr Erdogan proclaimed in an interview with Turkish broadcaster ATV. “All kinds of immorality,” he seethed, “all kinds of espionage” could be found there.
Last week, following the war cry of “Twitter Mwitter!” he banned that social media in Turkey (though it didn’t work so well).
Erdogan, who has been bedeviled by recordings posted to social media that appear to show corruption in his administration, dug in deeper. “This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook,” he began, “they have shaken families to their roots…I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. There are kinds of lies there.”
Now just days before countrywide March 30 elections, another video has emerged. Turkish authorities said a recording showing high-ranking officials purportedly discussing whether to go to war with neighboring Syria was posted on YouTube. The officials mull whether to strike — or even use ground troops — against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, a jihadist group rooted in Syria.
In the recording, an official says Erdogan thinks conflict with Syria “must be seen as an opportunity for us.”
Erdogan, who’s battling a mounting perception that he’s a corrupt autocrat, was outraged. The video, if accurate, would lend credence to his critics’ allegations that Erdogan may be trying to incite conflict with Syria to divert attention away from domestic issues.
“These gangs of treachery are the enemies of our state and people,” Erdogan announced in response. “The perpetrators of this attack targeting the security of our state and people will be found …and will be handed … the heaviest penalty. This treacherous attack targeting the Republic of Turkey will be disrupted.”
He disrupted it alright.
YouTube in Turkey has just been replaced by this if I visit without using a VPN: pic.twitter.com/TPVbQSKvBV
— Mike Giglio (@mike_giglio) March 27, 2014
Google confirmed to Reuters that after Erdogan banned YouTube, some Turks couldn’t access the site. But what was the exact video that his administration were concerned about?
Here’s a full translation, first published in the International Business Times, courtesy of a veteran translator who asked that his name be withheld for fear of retribution.
“I should note,” the translator told the Washington Post, “that it was done pretty hastily.”
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu:
“Prime Minister said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on Suleiman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.”
National Intelligence Chief 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.”