Many Turkish citizens are rejecting their prime minister’s view of social media as “the worst menace to society” and instead are embracing the image of the little blue bird as the foundation of their protests for democratic freedoms of speech and expression.
The image, bearing the signature “Gurbul,” was uploaded to the social site Reddit by the user Albythere and is going viral on other social media sites as well, including Facebook and Twitter.
The day after protests began on May 28 in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan spoke out against social media, accusing users of spreading false information there. “There is now a menace which is called Twitter,” he said. “The best examples of lies can be found there.”
Protesters and citizens have flocked to the site as a source of information. According to BBC News, Turks turned to Twitter to fill the gaps left by TV stations in the first few days of the protesters, and to show their support for the cause.
The author also uses the image of another bird, the white dove, to highlight the peaceful intentions of the movement. Protesters have remained mostly peaceful in expressing opposition to violations of basic freedoms of assembly and press throughout Erdogan’s rule.
Protests continue to be greeted with violence by the Turkish police, including the widespread use of tear gas. Medical officials estimate that 5,000 people have been injured and at least four killed in the unrest, according to BBC News. As Turkey’s bid into the European Union is being considered, EU officials have grown concerned with the government’s violence against protesters.
Police detained 25 people and were searching for 13 more on accusations of using social media networks such as Twitter to spread false details about the anti-government protests and police reaction to them, CNN reported last week.
Turkey has one of the fastest-growing populations of social media users in the world, with a 300 percent increase in usage in recent years, BBC News reported. Further, 79 percent of the online population in Turkey are social media users, according to Assistant Professor Dr. Mine Demirtas at the University of Istanbul.