Twitter Ban Lifted, But The Dangers Remain

With the blanket ban on Twitter in Turkey having just been lifted, here’s a worthy reminder of the bigger picture from Amnesty International:

Human Rights in Turkey

Using hashtags like #TekrarHoşgeldinTwitter (welcome back Twitter), the news that the Turkish government had finally lifted the ban on twitter came across my desktop this afternoon.

Twitter is no longer banned in Turkey Twitter is no longer banned in Turkey

I don’t think I was the only one who sighed in relief.  Though the government response was slow, coming some twenty-four hours after the Turkish Supreme Court had issued its decision, this was an important victory for freedom of expression and the rule of law in Turkey. 

Still, as one colleague noted, it took not one, but two court orders to finally end the banWhen a lower court ruled against the ban, the government chose to drag its feet, ensuring that twitter was not freely accessible during the important municipal elections this past Sunday (though many tech-savvy Turks were able to work around the ban).

Moreover, as Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on…

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Zero The Money, Maximise The Bull

FOR FOREIGNERS TRYING TO KEEP UP with the continuous saga of the epic corruption scandal gripping Turkey since mid-December last year, the daddy of all wiretap leaks (after numerous predecessors) came this week, late in the evening on Mon. 24 Feb. The bombshell of hearing PM Erdoğan telling his son — across 5 phone calls & 24 hrs — to get rid of a cool 1 billion dollars hard cash on 17 Dec., the day 3 simultaneous probes broke wide open, sent social media into understandable overdrive. As midnight Monday (local time) approached, Erdoğan convened a damage limitation meeting with the national spy chief, the justice minister, & a deputy PM. Unlike previous wiretap leaks, which were either ignored or explained away, this time came a fierce denial from the Prime Minister’s office, as reported by Reuters:

The recordings, which were released via the Internet this evening, accompanied with the allegation that they were a telephone conversation between our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son, are completely untrue and the product of an immoral montage. Those who created this dirty conspiracy targeting the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey will be brought to account within the law.

Meanwhile, the two largest opposition parties, the CHP & MHP, also held emergency sessions through the night, after which the CHP leader, calling the recordings genuine, demanded Erdoğan “take a helicopter” & “flee abroad” or resign. All very stern stuff indeed, but to understand exactly why, here’s a concise summary of the five recordings from the Dragoman Review. For context, the first telephone call takes place at 8:02 A.M. on 17 Dec., after dawn police raids had hauled in some 49 people, including three AKP ministers’ sons, the CEO of state-owned Halkbank, & a well-known property tycoon: Continue reading “Zero The Money, Maximise The Bull”

RedHack: In Their Own Words

TURKEY’S OWN WIKILEAKS, REDHACK, have barely been out of the headlines since the year began. Although formed in 1997, the socialist hacktivists and their declaration to be the “voice of the oppressed”, only caught the glare of the Turkish media just over four months ago.

At the tail end of February, the Hürriyet Daily News revealed that a little-known “left-wing Turkish group” had successfully hacked servers belonging to the Ankara Police Dept. What followed was not just a leak of “informants” held on police databases. but also the embarrassing revelation that police in the nation’s capital used “123456” as their “secret” password.

From there on in, the high-profile hacks have kept on coming. To date, the list of their online victims includes controversial Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen; the Turkish Armed Forces; milk production firms implemented in the poisoning of hundreds of school children; a national religious newspaper; as well as government ministries for the Interior, the Family, and, most recently, of Foreign Affairs.

With the latest news that an inceasingly irate special prosecutor is threatening to have the media-savvy hacktivists re-designated as “terrorists”, İ.D. thought it timely to to take a look behind the red masks of the men (and perhaps women) behind the headlines.

The following interview took place on 27 June, before the Foreign Ministry hack. Originally conducted in Turkish, TV host-producer-journalist Hıdır Geviş asked and fielded questions to RedHack over 20 minutes on Twitter. Published in full on GazeteVatan.com the following day, here it is in English courtesy of — and many thanks to — the İ.D. translation dept. (all women): Continue reading “RedHack: In Their Own Words”

HDN: RedHack Leaks Turkish Army Staff Documents

FIRST THE POLICE, then just about any government ministry you care to mention, now Turkey’s crack hacking force RedHack have broken into databases of NATO’s 2nd largest army, the Turkish Armed Forces.

Leaked into the public domain via Twitter Tuesday morning (12 June), the link to Google Docs detailed army personnel of the 2nd Commando Brigade.

According to the Hürriyet Daily News, who finally broke the story in English by Tues. evening, RedHack also explained their intention behind the leak:

“Think of what foreign agencies are capable of achieving if we were able to obtain this list. Here is a small example of the situation the country’s protectors are in.”

The group continued their message, saying: “We will criticize – in our own way – an army that chose so stubbornly not to give rights to its non-commissioned officers and denied U.S. involvement in the Uludere massacre. The sons of ranking officers [in this army] are sent to study abroad while conscripts are made to march toward certain death.”

RedHack continued to say that the Turkish Armed Forces chose to be “an army of the United States instead of an army of the [Turkish] people.”

The hacking group added they did not publicize any information that could put the military personnel in danger. “What we have made public is what was already known to foreign [intelligence] services and to the [Fethullah Gülen] community. We are on the side of the people and the righteous,” the message from RedHack said.

Source: HDN: RedHack Leaks Turkish Army Staff Documents

Hacktivists Slaughter Agriculture Ministry Site

ANOTHER HIT & RUN HACK took place earlier today, from Turkey’s own “Anonymous” hacktivists, RedHack. Gaining in notoriety for their many attacks on state websites & even reportedly causing a nationwide shutdown of the ‘net, this time the group fired its politically loaded message at the Ministry of Agriculture — more specifically its Strategic Development Directorate.

The remains of the ministry’s website opened with the above pic & message “hackers on behalf of the villager”, with the group criticising a government quota system that favours imports of American & European produce over support for the Turkish farmer.

The culturally & politically packed statement, laced with their hallmark wit, took a range of pot shots: from poking fun at the Agriculture Minister, Mehmet Mehdi Eker; to the Turkish prime minister’s 2007 blunt response to a desperate farmer railing against government policies; to the recent “poisoned milk” scandal, whereby some 4,000 school pupils were, it was reported, hospitalised:

Let’s get to the point: It’s not enough for you to get the famers into trouble and say “take your mother and leave”, now it’s the children’s turn. You are distibuting free milk at schools. That’s good but give children real milk, not milk powder. You are playing the demagogue to people who criticise you, by saying we are against milk. Actually, we are not against milk, but against poisoned milk. Last month, we hackedall of the distribution companies, and we see that you gave all the milk tenders to “cemaat” members [read: a closed Islamic community; here alluding to the followers of Fethullah Gülen] … What is the relationship bewteen you & those companies? If you were brave enough, you would explain it.

Look my Mehdi: If you and your predcessors hadn’t ruined agriculture and husbandry by supporting the quotas and policies of imperialist economies, today every child would be able to drink [safe] milk. Leave the country to the workers. Don’t worry about it. As you see in the picture, our children can make their own cake :) Take it easy Captain Mehdi.

The hacked page closed with a dedication to Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, “who devoted himself to the workers’ struggle and was tortured to death on 18 May, 1973.”

HDN: RedHack Hacks Turkish Family Ministry Website On Mother’s Day

REDHACK LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED. Their latest missive at the AKP government involved taking down the Ministry of Family and Social Policy website on Mother’s Day (Sunday, 13 May, here in Turkey), with the focus firmly on women’s rights, both in Turkey and abroad:

The hacked page showed a collage that was made up of the picture of a woman murdered by her husband, a mother crying over her fallen son’s grave at a military cemetery, an Israeli soldier facing a woman and her two daughters, and a picture of the “Saturday Mothers,” an organization that seeks to shed light on unsolved murders and disappearances of civilians in Turkey in the 1990s.

A message was written below a picture with the headline “Happy Mother’s Day,” which gave detailed information on violence and sexual abuse against women in Turkey. RedHack said the Turkish family minister, Fatma Şahin, was more concerned with regulating soap operas and TV shows, instead of finding solutions to women’s issues.

The group also called for an end to what it called the “dirty war that makes mothers cry” and an end to “the disrespectful attitude of ‘Take your mother and leave,’” a statement made by Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan after a villager had asked him to help farmers and said, “Our mothers are crying,” a Turkish expression meaning that one is in great pain or suffering.

RedHack also rounded off with a taunting footnote for special prosecutor Hakan Yüksel, charged with (somehow) hauling the now notorious hackers in front of a judge:

“Prosecutor Hakan, what’s up? We’re going to end up being buddies if we keep this up ;) We’re hacking from prison, what do you say to that? ;)”

In other words, those he’s locked up are not RedHack.

Source: HDN: RedHack hacks Turkish family ministry website on Mother’s Day