Hackers belonging to the nebulous Internet collective Anonymous launched #OpTurkey this week in a show of solidarity with fierce anti-government protests that have sent shock waves throughout Turkey. The cyberattack, which targeted the Turkish government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, brought down websites belonging to President Abdullah Gul, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Istanbul Directorate of Security and the Istanbul Governor’s Office on Sunday.
According to the Russian website RT, the Anonymous attack came after a series of brutal clashes between police and protesters that arose on Friday after Turkish police conducted a crackdown on a peaceful environmental demonstration in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The ensuing conflict, during which police fired tear gas at protestors, some of whom fought back by throwing rocks, seemed to take on broader political significance.
“It’s the first time in Turkey’s democratic history that an unplanned, peaceful protest movement succeeded in changing the government’s approach and policy,” Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Turkish research group the Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies, told the New York Times. “It gave for the first time a strong sense of empowerment to ordinary citizens to demonstrate and further their belief that if they act like they did the last few days they can influence events in Turkey.”
The government’s reaction drew the ire of Anonymous, who slammed the Turkish government for acting like “petty dictators.” In a message posted on YouTube on Sunday, Anonymous announced the launch of Operation Turkey, saying, “We have watched for days with horror as our brothers and sisters in Turkey who are peacefully rising up against their tyrannical government [have been] brutalized, beaten, run over by riot vehicles, shot with water cannons and gassed in the streets."
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“Turkey is supposed to be a so-called modern democracy, but the Turkish government behaves like the petty dictators in China or Iran,” the missive’s computer generated voice continued. “Anonymous is outraged by this behavior and we will unite across the globe and bring the Turkish government to its knees."
The collective stated that it planned to “attack every Internet and communications asset of the Turkish government.” In tweets, the group encouraged protesters to “be strong,” promising to lend their support.
We are coming Turkey. Be strong, We will not let you down. Stay in the streets, We will take your government offline. #OpTurkey
— Anonymous(@AnonOpsMob) June 2, 2013
Erdogan has vowed not to cave to the demands of demonstrators, referring to them as a small group of misinformed “looters.” He has also slammed social media for allegedly spreading false information. "There is now a menace which is called Twitter," Erdogan said. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society."