The Turkish government has developed an international reputation for wasting no time in censoring websites and social media users inconvenient to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or in any way offensive to Islam.
It appears to take significantly more time to determine whether websites disseminating Islamic State propaganda deserve to be taken offline, too, with about seven of these ISIS websites blocked in Turkey on Sunday.
Reuters reports that “more than half a dozen” radical Islamist cites promoting the Islamic State have been taken down on all Turkish computer systems. These include both fan sites and some that claim to be official media outlets for the Sunni terrorist group, which routinely uses Turkey as a passageway to Syria and Iraq for Westerners looking to become jihadis or jihadi slave brides in the ISIS territories.
One of these “official” websites, DarulHilafe.com, hinted to Reuters in a statement that their officials may attack Turkey directly in response to the crackdown. “They should not forget that if they continue to curb the freedoms of Muslims who have never harmed or attacked Turkey in any way, and increase their pressure, Muslims might retaliate,” website officials state. The site claims to be an official Islamic State subsidiary of Al Hayat Media, the English-language propaganda wing of the terrorist group. Darul Hilafe, however, is in Turkish.
On the website itself, site administrators issued a statement describing the crackdown as repression of Muslims in general. “All kinds of prostitution in Turkey, adultery, gay, gambling, liquor, etc. sites [remain] why Turkey blocks only religious broadcasting,” the statement reads in part.
In addition to the sites themselves, social media accounts advertising the sites have since been blocked in Turkey. A court order has blocked them all, most described as “news websites which run stories concerning the plight of Muslims in the Middle East and Eastern Turkistan.” The “news stories” are largely thinly-disguised propaganda urging Muslims in Turkey to fight for the rights of the allegedly persecuted by joining jihadist groups.
Turkish police also detained Abdulkadir Polat, a site developer linked to one of the banned sites. This follows the arrest of 45 foreign nationals in Turkey suspected of attempting to cross the border into Syria and join the Islamic State, reported by Dogan news this week.
In March, the blocked websites were allowed to continue existing, while 68,000 sites questioning Islam and criticizing President Erdogan were blocked as “blasphemous.” Among these was the website of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the target of a jihadist attack in January following the repeated publication of illustrations claiming to depict Muhammad. Even when announcing a new program to grant internet access to poor families whose children could use it as an educational resource, the Turkish government noted that only “useful” websites would be free, while all others would be blocked.