As a group of university students we recently conducted an an action in Istanbul with the aim of protesting the Turkish government's ban on Wikipedia that has been in place for more than a year now.
In April 2017, the Turkish government banned access to Wikipedia over its refusal to take down disputed political content that the state objects to. After the ban, Wikipedia's traffic in Turkey plummeted by 90 per cent, and as time passed, the country's ban on the site became the most comprehensive in the world. The most worrying part is that the ban is part of a much wider trend towards censorship of information in the country that has been going on in various forms for many years and escalated after the coup attempt in July 2016. Since then, more than 150 media outlets have been shut-down by the government and the media is now largely dominated by government-backed sources.
Initiating this project, our aim was to draw attention to the 80 million people who cannot access the world's largest information resource and are not able to contribute to or correct the information held within that source. We want to show the global community that this ban is not only our struggle as Turkish citizens, but also a limit to everyone right to access free information coming from Turkey. We believe that Turkish people have a lot that they can, and should, share with the world.
With such mindset, 5 of us went out on the streets of the old city and photographed shopkeepers, fishermen, street artists, students, musicians and put together 6 collages under 5 main titles, each corresponding to a wikipedia page under the the given title ("Galata", "Golden Horn", "Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University", "Camondo House", "Nazar" and "Pera Palace".
All of these titles represent a concept or place that is deeply connected to Istanbul's culture and history. For instance Mimar Sinan Fine Arts Faculty is named after one of the greatest architects in Ottoman history and a most valuable contributor to the most monumental historic structures in Turkey. It is arguably the best art school in Turkey and has recently been asked to evacuate its historic campus by the State, although it is not possible to find this information on Wikipedia because the instance occurred after the state banned users in Turkey from accessing the website.
We realised that pasting photographs would not nearly be enough to reach the scope of our target audience, so we hope to make this a viral movement and a response to Wikipedia's recent #wemissTurkey campaign with a #TurkeyMissesWiki hashtag (which we pasted in various locations around Istanbul) . We are currently working on a video that will feature the documented process of our action, and have created a @insideoutturkey platform on instagram.
Through art, we believe that we have a good chance of changing the troubling course that Turkey is directed towards and truly hope that you can help out our cause by displaying our project on your website and social media outlets.