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Monday, August 12, 2013

Turkey encourages its citizens to spy on each other

The government of Turkey is encouraging its citizens to spy on each other.
Last week, police announced plans to install neighborhood informant boxes in cities across Turkey. Dubbed the Confidential Police Notice Point Project, the move will allow residents to submit anonymous written and oral tips on their neighbors. Picture a small black box on the corner where neighbors drop in slips of paper incriminating one another for offenses like banging pots and pans in support of the Gezi Park protesters (a nightly show of solidarity in many urban areas in the weeks following the countrywide protests).
“It’s a crime to disturb neighbors,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly said in July, urging the public to turn in dissenters. “I’m telling you that such acts require punishment.”
The informant boxes follow a government decision to replace private security workers with state police at all state-run universities, the better to keep an eye on protest-prone college students. Meanwhile, anti-government protests that started back in May continued this past weekend.
All this should be acutely troubling to anyone who cares about democracy in the urban world. Istanbulites long weary of the gaze of their government now must look into the eyes of their neighbors. Tools similar to the informant boxes have been used in dictator-run Arab countries before, and as well as in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia — places where secret police kept watch and public trust evaporated.
Local informants are also not completely new to Turkey. “Historically, Istanbul police relied on local informants — the imam, the mukhtar (village leader) — at times of social unrest,” Fariba Zarinebaf, director of Middle East and Islamic studies at the University of California-Riverside and author of Crime and Punishment in Istanbul: 1700-1800, said via email, citing the late 19th century. “But I doubt these measures were ever that effective.”
In a modern world, with a government that has used force to silence demonstrators and cast them as looters, terrorists and rodents, this plan seems far more sinister.
 Read the whole thing. Before you Americans get too smug about this story, please consider this (disclaimer - story's source is Russian) and that the NSA has been doing, and yes, I can see this happening in Israel too.

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