Society needs whistleblowers. They serve as a check on corruption and governmental overreach and in the private sector, they are often the only thing that stands between unbridled corporate greed and the otherwise clueless masses.
As Edward Snowden demonstrated, even the most “developed” of nations need checks on government and that goes double in places like Turkey, where an autocracy is masquerading as a largely developed democracy.
Despite the fact that Erdogan has managed to create an environment in which the press and the police are afraid to pursue the truth for fear of brutal reprisals from Ankara, there’s one Turkish citizen who stands against the suppression of free speech: Fuat Avni.
Fuat Avni is a pseudonym used by an anonymous government whistleblower. He has more than 2.3 million followers on Twitter (so, half as many as Donald Trump).
Here are two excerpts from an interview Vocativ conducted with Fuat Avni last year:
Vocativ: Is there a reason why you chose the name Fuat Avni?
FA: I did not open the account with this name initially. I used different names. But I did not want any other person to be hurt because of what I wrote, so I changed user names frequently. Fuat Avni means “a helping heart.” I thought it to be suitable and I continued with it.
Vocativ: Do you alone control the Twitter account?
FA: There is no team behind it, only me. I don’t need to get any information from anyone because for years I have been working at in sensitive positions within the AKP [Turkey’s ruling party]. Because of my position, I have information about people at critical points. The reports and information come to my desk as well. It is ridiculous to think that an insider gets information from an outsider. Only I and Allah know who Fuat Avni is.
Well, on Sunday, October 11, Fuat Avnil tweeted something interesting.
18. Seçimden çok korkan Yezid, iç sava? ç?karman?n yan?s?ra Rus jetlerini dü?ürüp ülkeyi fiilen sava?a sokmay? bile dü?ünüyor.— fuatavni (@fuatavni_f) October 11, 2015
That, allegedly, is the tweet that foretold Ankara's move to shoot down a Russian Su-24 near the Syrian border late last month in the first incident of a NATO member engaging a Russian or Soviet aircraft in more than six decades.
The prediction didn't go unnoticed.
Late last month, Russia's sharp-tongued, US foreign policy critic extraordinaire Maria Zakharova cited the Fuat Avnil tweet in accusing Turkey of purposefully downing the Russian warplane. Here's Today's Zaman (whose editor in chief just resigned under legal pressure from Erdogan):
In comments on Turkey’s recent downing of a Russian jet over violation of its airspace, a spokesperson from the Russian Foreign Ministry has recalled that famous Turkish Twitter whistleblower claimed back in October that the Turkish government was planning to down a Russian jet to remain in power.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed that Turkey “purposefully” downed the Russian Su-24 at the Turkish-Syrian border on Tuesday and said the “unprecedented” incident will have serious repercussions.
She also quoted statements of Turkish Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni who claimed in October that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an were planning to down a Russian jet to bring Turkey to brink of war with Russia to ultimately keep its power. “This is very interesting,” Zakharova said.
Yes, it is "very interesting" that Turkey's most famous whistleblower and anonymous Twitter personality should predict such a dramatic event more than a month ahead of time. As Zaman goes on to note, "Fuat Avni's identity is unknown and has prompted wide speculation, but the account has previously revealed numerous details that would appear to indicate that the user is close to or inside the government and the account has attracted a large following."
Fuat Avni also predicted the widespread crackdown on the media ahead of of November's elections. The government also attempted to have his account blocked in October after he tweeted information about Bilal Erdogan's finances (again, from Today's Zaman):
Fuat Avni said in a series of tweets on Oct. 4: “In Italy, Bilal will manage accounts in Switzerland and other countries. Bilal has billions of dollars to manage.” Claiming that Bilal flew to Italy on Sept. 27 and plans to remain there for a while, with family members possibly joining him later, Fuat Avni wrote: “They are planning to keep Bilal in Italy until the [Nov. 1] election. They will decide whether or not he will come back depending on the situation after the election.” The whistleblower said there is a plan in place for President Erdogan and his family to flee a possible trial on corruption charges if necessary after Nov. 1 and that Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu is organizing the plan.
After Fuat Avni's claims were reported by media outlets, Bilal Erdogan's lawyer filed a complaint against Fuat Avni's Twitter account, asking for a court to block access to it on the grounds that the tweets breach his rights. In a decision on Oct. 6, the ?stanbul 7th Penal Court of Peace decided to demand that Twitter block access to the account in Turkey, but the popular social media website has refused to implement the court decision.
As you can see, this is a serious thorn in the side of the Erodgan regime and in case the implications of the above aren't clear enough, we'll close with a quote from Istanbul-based Cihan News - which is controlled by Zaman owner Feza Publications - ca. October 12:
Avni, who claims to be among Erdogan's inner circle, says the president of Turkey has seen the latest polls in the run-up to the snap election in November, and is convinced that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) cannot regain a single-party majority.
Avni purports that Erdogan is even thinking of declaring war on Russia and taking advantage of the de facto situation, consolidating his grip on power.