Block of Wikipedia in Turkey

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The Turkish Wikipedia logo with a censor bar covering the text. This version of the logo has been in use since the ban.
A graph of page views for the Turkish Wikipedia from February to May 2017 shows a great drop of roughly 80% immediately after the block was imposed. With Wikipedia's content being open, alternative websites continue to provide the information provided by the online encyclopedia to the public.

On 29 April 2017, Turkish authorities blocked online access to all language editions of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia throughout Turkey.[1][2] The restrictions were imposed by Turkish Law No. 5651,[3] due to the English version's article on state-sponsored terrorism, where Turkey was described as a sponsor country for ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which Turkish courts viewed as a public manipulation of mass media. Requests by the Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority to edit several articles to comply with Turkish law were not adhered to.

As of January 2018, Wikipedia was still banned in Turkey and Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher did not know why.[4] On 5 March 2018, Wikipedia's Facebook page started the "We Miss Turkey" (Turkish: Özledik) campaign and replaced the black censor bar over the Wikipedia logo with a red one. It also had an accompanying hashtag of the same name.[5]


Some countries have faulted Turkey for funding Islamist rebel groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front.[6][7] In October 2014, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Al-Assad".[6]

The block occurred on 30 April 2017, two weeks after the Turkish constitutional referendum, which was held on 16 April.

On 25 April, Turkey conducted several airstrikes on YPG, YPJ, and PKK facilities in both Syria and Iraq (Sinjar). 40 militants, including five Peshmerga soldiers, were killed at Iraq's Sinjar Mountains, and more than 20 YPG and YPJ fighters were killed on Syria's Mount Karakoc.[8] The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) threatened to withdraw from the operation to capture Raqqa if the United States did not take measures to stop Turkey's airstrikes against the group.[9] In response, the US began to patrol the border alongside SDF troops in order to force a ceasefire between its two allies.[10][11]

On 26 April, continuing the purges that started in 2016, 1,009 police officers were detained based on accusations of being secretly involved with the Gülenist network within the Turkish police force.[12] 9,100 officers have been suspended.[13][14] On 29 April, 3,974 more civil servants were dismissed. Media outlets and reporters have been heavily targeted; 190 news organizations have been banned and at least 120 journalists have been imprisoned.[15] Together with the ban of Wikipedia and television dating shows, The New York Times described the moves as "an expand[ing] crackdown on dissent and free expression".[16]

Legal context

Law No. 5651, known as the Internet Act (IA), was enacted on 4 May 2007.[17] The purpose of this law was described by the now-defunct Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication as follows: "There are two reasons for the law to be brought. The first reason: to determine the liability and the responsibility of collective use providers, access providers, location providers, and content providers, which are the main actors of the Internet. The other reason is to determine the procedures and fundamentals related to the specific crimes committed over the Internet and fighting these through content, location and access providers."[18] More recently, the law has been used to censor individuals, journalists and the media.[19] At least 127,000 websites are estimated to have been blocked in Turkey, along with another 95,000 individual web pages.[15]


On the morning of 29 April 2017, following news from Turkey Blocks that all language editions of Wikipedia had been blocked in Turkey,[1] several websites published articles about the event.[20] Reuters and the BBC reported that the Turkish authorities had blocked all access to Wikipedia in the country beginning at 5:00 AM GMT. Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority simply stated: "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. [sic] 5651 [governing the internet], an administrative measure has been taken for this website."[21][2] Users reported that they could only access Wikipedia using tools such as private VPNs.[22][23]

Rationale and demands

Voice of America reported that Turkish media had explained the block was a result of "terror-related content".[24] Referring to an email statement made by the Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry, Turkish News source Anadolu Agency reported that the block was due to its articles and comments describing Turkey's alleged involvement with terror groups. The ministry said, "Instead of coordinating against terrorism, it has become part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena."[25]

After court objection by Bilgi University professor Yaman Akdeniz, the Ankara 2nd Civil Court of Peace said that the causes of the block were the following articles on the English Wikipedia:[26]

On 11 May 2017, Turkish Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan cited Wikipedia's featuring "content creating a perception that Turkey is supporting terrorist organizations" as a reason for the block.[27]

According to a BBC report, the Hurriyet daily newspaper said that Ankara had asked Wikipedia to remove the offending content, adding that the access ban would be lifted if Wikipedia met Turkey's demands.[2] Later in the day, the provisional "administrative measure" was replaced by a court order, issued by the Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace, blocking Wikipedia as a "protective measure".[1]

According to a report by the Anadolu Agency, the country "has a history of demanding that international websites take such steps as having a representative office in the country, complying with principles of international law, implementing court rulings, and not being part of any smear campaign or operation in Turkey".[25]

On 3 May 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation submitted an objection to the block to Ankara's 1st Penal Court of Peace,[28] but it was rejected by the court on 5 May.[29] The ruling stated that the country-wide block would continue as the "offending" pages had not been removed. The head of Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority, Omer Fatih Sayan, explained: "It is not possible to open access to Wikipedia so long as the decisions are not implemented."[30] The same day, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) published the following official statement:[31]

  • Despite all the efforts, the content that falsely claims Turkey's support for terrorist organizations was not removed from Wikipedia.
  • This content was not allowed to be edited with accurate information.
  • Since Wikipedia broadcasts in HTTPS protocol, it is technically impossible to filter by individual URLs to block only relevant content.
  • Therefore, the entire Wikipedia content had to be filtered.
  • Wikipedia editors must do what is necessary for this and similar content.

Withdrawal of Jimmy Wales' invitation

On 2 May 2017, Istanbul Municipality removed Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, from the guest list at the World Cities Expo event on smart cities to be held in the city from 15 to 18 May 2017, making the following announcement: "Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was disinvited [sic] from the 'World Cities Expo Event' and the decision has been communicated to him. Respectfully announced to the public."[32] Wales had hoped to attend despite the Wikipedia block, commenting: "I am looking forward to the visit. Istanbul is one of my favorite cities."[33][34]


Republican People's Party (CHP) parliamentarians criticized the block, with Eren Erdem stating that the ban puts "Turkey in line with North Korea" and Barış Yarkadaş calling it "censorship and a violation of the right to access information".[35][36] In a tweet made on the first day of the block, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales expressed his support for those criticizing the decision as censorship, saying "Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right."[37][35][22][38] The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, states that it is committed to keeping the site available in Turkey and pushing for a "judicial review" of the decision.[39]

Italian Wikipedia against Turkey's censorship

On 9 January 2018, Republican People's Party deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu submitted a written parliamentary question regarding the block of Wikipedia, saying that it is against the Turkish constitution and European Convention on Human Right, and that "the block should be partial according to Turkish laws". Minister of transport, maritime and communication Ahmet Arslan denied that Wikipedia is blocked completely and he stated that the Wikipedia block is just partial due to Article 22 of the Constitution of Turkey and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[40]

NDTV said that the move caused strong reactions on social media against the decision to deny access to "one of the world's most popular websites".[41]

Six months into the block, Wikimedia Foundation Communication Director Juliet Barbara published an article about the efforts to remove the access ban.[42]

A year and a day into the block, on 30 April 2018, İYİ Party in a reference to the Turkish general election, 2018, vowed to host the "reopening of Wikipedia" with "all of Turkey's citizens" on the day after snap elections on June 24.[43]

Muharrem İnce, CHP's presidential candidate for the 2018 Turkish presidential election, also vowed to reopen Wikipedia during one of his campaign speeches on 22 May 2018.[44] However, the election was won by the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Alternative access methods

Activists have created a copy of Turkish Wikipedia on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS)—a way of addressing web content which the Turkish government cannot block due to its usage of decentralized open-source technology.[45][46][47] The Turkish- and English-language mirror website, which is unaffiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation, is among several Wikipedia mirrors available to Turkish users unable to access Wikipedia.[48] The mirror site, nevertheless, omitted the "offending" sections that the Turkish authorities wanted removed from Wikipedia.[49][50] To access the “mirrored” version, users type a “0” (zero) before “wikipedia” in the URL to access all Wikipedia content.[4]

Universities in Turkey with eduroam coverage has full access[clarification needed] to Wikipedia. As other Wikimedia projects aren't blocked in Turkey, Wikipedia is from some setups[how?] (e.g. Chromebook) intermittently accessible and available for article editing (which is not possible with most of VPN services) by setting the browser to use a domain name server (DNS) outside Turkey, browsing to a page of a different Wikimedia project and clicking the link to Wikipedia on that page.[why?]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Wikipedia blocked in Turkey". Turkey Blocks. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Turkish authorities block Wikipedia without giving reason". BBC News. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Wikipedia 'still not sure' why it is still banned in Turkey". Hurriyet. Istanbul. January 17, 2018. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  5. "Wikipedia'dan kampanya: Türkiye'yi özledik". (in Turkish). 6 March 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Gulf allies and 'Army of Conquest'". Al-Ahram Weekly. 28 May 2015.
  7. Kim Sengupta (12 May 2015). "Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria". The Independent.
  8. "Turkey may hit YPG in Syria 'all of a sudden': President Erdoğan". Hürriyet Daily News. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
  9. "YPG threatens to withdraw from Raqqa ops amid Turkish attacks". NRT TV. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  10. Bilginsoy, Zeynep1; Deeb, Sarah El (29 April 2017). "Turkey, U.S. move armored vehicles onto either side of Syrian border". CP24. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  11. "Turkey attacks Rojava to impede anti-ISIS operations in Raqqa: Western SDF volunteer - ARA News". ARA News. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  12. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  13. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  14. "Turkey fires 3,900 in second post-referendum purge". Reuters. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Kingsley, Patrick (June 10, 2017). "Turks Click Away, but Wikipedia Is Gone". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  16. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  17. "Turkey: Law No. 5651 on Regulating Broadcasting in the Internet and Fighting Against Crimes Committed through Internet Broadcasting". WIPO. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  18. Presidency of Telecommunication, communication, PTC. "Information about the regulations of the content of the Internet". PTC. Retrieved 22 March 2014.[dead link]
  19. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  20. "Turkey blocks Wikipedia as threat to national security". Jurist. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  21. "Turkey blocks access to Wikipedia". Reuters. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Türkei blockiert Wikipedia-Zugang" (in Deutsch). Deutsche Welle. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  23. "Internet-Zensur unter Erdogan: Türkei blockiert Wikipedia". FOCUS Online (in Deutsch). 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  24. "Monitors: Turkey Blocks Access to Wikipedia". VOA. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Turkey: Wikipedia blocked for disregarding the law". Anadolu Agency. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  26. Yazıcıoğlu, Yıldız (3 May 2017). "Wikipedia Türkiye İçin 'Sansür' Uygulayacak mı?". Amerikanın Sesi (in Türkçe). Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  27. "Turkey warned Wikipedia over content, demands it open office: minister". Reuters. 11 May 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  28. "Wikipedia takes the first legal step against Turkey's ban". Birgün Daily. 3 May 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  29. "Wikipedia itirazı reddedildi". Ensonhaber (in Türkçe). 5 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  30. LeFebvre, Rob (5 May 2017). "Turkish court backs censorship of Wikipedia". engadget. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  31. BTK [@BTKbasin] (5 May 2017). "BTK official statement on twitter" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  32. "Days after banning Wikipedia, Turkey disinvites founder from Istanbul expo". Turkey Purge. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  33. Can, Ahmet (2 May 2017). "Wikimedia Foundation appeals court ruling blocking Wikipedia in Turkey". Hürriyet Daily. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  34. "Istanbul cancels invite for Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales after ban". Deutsche Welle. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  35. 35.0 35.1 News, ABC (29 April 2017). "Turkish court formally blocks access to Wikipedia". ABC News. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  36. Bilginsoy, Zeynep. "Access to Wikipedia blocked by government in Turkey". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  37. Wales, Jimmy [@jimmy_wales] (29 April 2017). "Jimmy Wales' response to Wikipedia ban in Turkey" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  38. Wales, Jimmy [@jimmy_wales] (29 April 2017). "Jimmy Wales on Twitter" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  39. "Turkey blocks Wikipedia over an alleged 'smear campaign'". Engadget. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  40. "Bakan Arslan'dan flaş Wikipedia açıklaması". yeniakit (in Türkçe). Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  41. "Turkish Authorities Block Access To Wikipedia: Monitor". NDTV. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  42. Barbara, Juliet. "Six months later: People of Turkey still denied access to Wikipedia". Wikimedia Vakfı. Retrieved 7 Nov 2017.
  43. "İYİ Party vows to reopen access to Wikipedia if elected". Hurriyet Daily News. 30 April 2018.
  44. "You will tweet freely if I am elected: CHP candidate İnce". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  45. "Turkey Can't Block This Copy of Wikipedia". Observer. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  46. "Wikipedia'nın Engellenemeyen Türkçe Sürümü Yayına Girdi!". Webtekno (in Türkçe). Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  47. "Wikipedia'nın 'Engellenemeyen Türkçe Sürümünü' Çıkardılar!". (in Türkçe). Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  48. "'Pirate' Wikipedia launched in Turkey after access ban - SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY". 2011-09-13. Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  49. See [1] and [2]
  50. Geybullayeva, Arzu (29 June 2017). "Mirror Websites Are Helping Turkish Users Reconnect to Wikipedia". The Seattle Star. Retrieved 22 July 2017.

External links