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Turkey : twitter politics

Wednesday 5 January 2011, by Dogu Ergil

It is amazing to see how fast technological innovations are adopted when they ease our daily lives. Twitter is a good example. People have begun to communicate through tweets that they can easily send with their telephones when they are away from their home or office computers.

Communication of this sort was beyond the imagination of the “professional revolutionaries” who at one time wanted to create a global society where everything, especially information, was shared. Now their dream has come true, at least in the communications sector.

Lately a wave of tweets have emerged following the threatening memorandum issued by General Staff, declaring that they are party to the ongoing debate on the use of languages other than Turkish in schools if minority parents were to demand it. The tone of the memorandum (read this as ultimatum) indicated that to be a party to the debate meant to abort it. For decades, these memorandums were taken very seriously because they were likely accompanied by military coups that ruined the democratic political process.

But this time not only was it not taken that seriously, but an uproar of popular protest resulted. A substantial portion of the protests were conveyed via tweets. This proves that a new medium for expressing and sharing public opinion is developing and to suppress a society with so many means of communication and information sharing is virtually impossible.

The memorandum that was posted on the website of the General Staff on Dec. 17, 2010 (Number BA - 03 / 10) briefly said the republic that was given to the Turkish nation as a gift is based on popular sovereignty and democracy. The debate on teaching secondary (cultural) languages is found to be contradictory to the unitary and secular state that constitutes the foundation of the republic philosophy.

The readers of this four-paragraph memorandum have detected more than a dozen mistakes. They deride the General Staff for its lack of competence in the use of its own mother and official language, while trying to prevent the teaching of a second (minority/cultural) language, based on the demands of citizens. They see no democratic merit to taking such a position. And they do not understand how a republic that ought to be a popular regime can be described as a “gift.”

What many people do not understand is why the teaching of a language that is spoken daily by millions should divide the country. Furthermore, such a right exists in the international agreements and documents Turkey has signed or has to sign if it wants to become a member of the European Union.

Based on these facts, it is understandable, but equally regrettable, that the once most reliable and respected institution in the country, the military and the General Staff in particular, is the subject of teasing in a flurry of Twitter messages, some of which are literary gems. I want to share only six of them with you.

O General Staff, why bother with two languages when you cannot even speak one properly?

Will the General Staff issue an ultimatum against sign language?

The Turkish Language Institute should deliver an ultimatum to the General Staff first and give Turkish language lessons later.

Remain calm General Staff, now slowly place that language on the ground.

The General Staff is reported to be following political developments with unease; well, it is reciprocal, the people are following the General Staff with due concern.

Aren’t you ashamed of waging asymmetrical psychological warfare against the General Staff?

It is a shame that the once mighty and untouchable institution has become a subject for public humor. Soldiers should remain soldiers, not become full-time politicians or part-time soldiers. If they do, they cannot avoid being criticized the way other politicians are.

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Source : TdZ, 02 January 2011, Sunday

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