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memri
March 6, 2019 No.
7927

#İnstagramCihadı: A Review Of Turkish Jihadi Content On Instagram – Glorifying Martyrdom; Celebrating Terrorist Attacks In The West Including 9/11, Charlie Hebdo; Praising Jihadi Leaders – Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri And Others – And Jihadi Groups – ISIS, Al-Qaeda, And More

By: A. Smith*

The following is an excerpt from a MEMRI JTTM report. To view the report in full, you must be a paying member of the JTTM; for membership information, send an email to [email protected] with "Membership" in the subject line. JTTM subscribers can click here to view the full report.

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Of Turkey's 80 million people, one source reports that 38 million use Instagram[1]– making Turkey the fifth highest Instagram user base in the world. In October 2016, İlke Çarkçı, who heads agencies and brands for Instagram's parent company Facebook in Turkey, said of Turkey's Instagram users that 47% were female and 53% were male; 41% of female users and 42% of male users were aged 18-24; and on average users had 87 followers and followed 115 accounts.[2] Among those 38 million users are jihadis and jihadi sympathizers.[3]

It is not clear whether jihadi Instagram content is being monitored by the Turkish government. While there are reports in the Turkish press about terrorism raids and arrests related to terrorist activity on "social media" in general,[4] there is no specific mention of Instagram or any other social media platform. However, the Turkish government does arrest opponents and critics for their Instagram posts.

Following Turkey's June 24, 2018 general elections, which were marred by allegations of ballot stuffing favoring the ruling AKP, which won the election, Turkish publicist Hakan Aykut Nili wrote on Instagram: "The only way is to take to the street." He deleted it 15 or 20 seconds later. The next day, Turkish police raided Nili's apartment and arrested him. He was later charged with "openly provoking animosity and hostility among the people."[5] Former Turkish model Merve Büyüksaraç shared a satirical poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Instagram, and was later convicted of insulting Erdoğan and sentenced to over a year in prison.[6] Hüseyin Sözlü, mayor of the Turkish city of Adana, faced up to four years in prison for insulting Erdoğan for content he posted on Instagram.[7]

This report reviews 256 posts found on 36 Turkish Instagram accounts, which together have 13,359 followers. 

 

*A. Smith is a research fellow at MEMRI.

 

[1] Statista.com/statistics/578364/countries-with-most-instagram-users, accessed February 20, 2019.

[2] Xtrlarge.com/2016/10/21/instagram-turkiye-istatistik, October 21, 2016.

[3] As of this writing, a search on Instagram for "#cihad" – Turkish for "jihad" – brings up over 53,600 posts, and a search for "#cihat," an alternate spelling, brings up another 23,300.  Even given the fact that these hashtags are sometimes used on non-jihadi posts, such as those about Ottoman history, and the fact that both words are also first names for men in Turkey, there are likely thousands of Instagram users who post jihadi content in Turkish.

[4] Yeniakit.com.tr/haber/erzurumda-deasin-sosyal-medya-yapilanmasina-operasyon-8-gozalti-470960.html, May 25, 2018; Haberturk.com/izmir-de-deas-operasyonu-9-gozalti-2210395, November 7, 2018; Ensonhaber.com/gaziantepte-deas-operasyonu-14-gozalti.html, April 27, 2018.

[5] Diken.com.tr/instagramda-24-haziran-yorumu-yapti-tutuklandi-en-buyuk-yolsuzluk-bu-olmali, July 2, 2018.

[6] Cnnturk.com/turkiye/turkiye-guzeli-merve-buyuksarac-erdogana-hakaretten-suclu-bulundu, May 31, 2016.

[7] Gunaydingazetesi.com.tr/cumhurbaskani-erdoganin-avukati-paylasim-baskalarina-ihale-edilmeye-calisiliyor/56523, March 17, 2016.