A news story from the last few days that has caused serious concern for our region of Central and Eastern Europe was the URL-based block implemented by the Turkish Internet Regulator (ICTA) of all language versions of Wikipedia in Turkey. This happened on the morning of 29 April, Saturday, resulting in millions of people in Turkey losing access to free knowledge about their country and the world around them.
The Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher, made an announcement on the Foundation’s blog, urging Turkish authorities to restore access to Wikipedia, and this announcement was quickly translated into several CEE languages: German, Czech, Bulgarian, and, of course, Turkish. In it, the Wikimedia Foundation called on the Turkish government to restore full access to Wikipedia for the Turkish people, reminding the public that the nearly 300,000 articles on their Wikipedia edition provides knowledge for millions of people about the country’s history, culture, and geography—written for Turkish speakers, by Turkish speakers.
The news about the implemented block immediately spread over global news broadcasts, the social media networks and among our wiki communities, resulting in more than 15 languages covering the incident with dedicated Wikipedia articles. Moreover, as a response to the block, many editors around the world started writing new articles about Turkey in their languages. For example, articles about notable Turkish women have been especially created since then in Hebrew, French, Spanish, Arabic, to list a few.
The incident also didn’t leave us, in the CEE Spring, indifferent. For example, the local coordinators of the contest in Bulgaria already announced adding Turkey to each of the forthcoming weeks in their local thematic weeks schedule, appealing to other contest organizers to consider doing the same. In the original general schedule, Turkey is in the last 10th week, and now the country is featured in Bulgaria in all the last four weeks until the end of May. The sitenotice also invites local editors to show solidarity with the Turkish wiki community in the form of more contributions and new articles related to the country.
In every language, there are many missing articles about Turkish geography, history, folklore, literature, art, sports or cuisine. With or without a particular occasion, sooner or later, these articles are to be created in each of Wikipedia’s language versions, because they are part of the sum of all human knowledge. And this is what we, the Wikimedians, believe that every single person on the planet should have free access to.
Although a symbolic gesture, this is our wiki way to show the support which we owe to our Turkish fellow Wikimedians. This is all the more important now during the CEE Spring, which is our biggest regional article writing contest and our shared endeavour to support mutual acknowledgement and understanding and to increase the quantity and quality of free knowledge available about the CEE region globally.