Turkey’s southeast and east are without internet for a third day in a row after connections were cut off following the arrests of the co-mayors of Diyarbakir on Tuesday.
“The internet connection has been cut off in eight provinces for three days. Life has stopped,” opposition MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu said on Twitter. “This meaningless collective punishment must end immediately.”
Tanrıkulu is a Republic People’s Party (CHP) deputy.
According to Turkey Blocks, an independent organization monitoring internet shutdown incidents in Turkey, the “full internet shutdown has cut off 6 million citizens in Turkey’s southeast regions,” representing 8% of the country.
The monitoring group reported people driving hundreds of kilometres to gain internet access.
Tanrıkulu argued that cutting off the internet not just silences a means of communication, it has also affected vital services.
“We are receiving intense complaints on internet outages from the region,” he said in a press statement on Friday morning. “The internet is not just a means of communicating, but also a part of our lives. Hospitals and courthouses cannot function. Life has stopped.”
He described the move as “absolute unlawfulness” and accused Ankara of discarding the largely Kurdish southeastern region.
“They shut down alternative media, but this wasn’t enough for them. Now they’ve cut the internet in the region. But you can’t hid the truth no matter what you do,” said Tanrıkulu. In September, Turkey shut down some 20 independent TV and radio stations.
Some who could access the internet took to Twitter to compare Turkey to North Korea.
“Turkey is on the way to becoming North Korea,” tweeted one user.
The internet shut down comes after the arrests on Tuesday of two Kurdish co-mayors of Diyarbakir. Gültan Kışanak was arrested at the airport and Fırat Anlı was arrested at his home. They are both members of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP).
They were allegedly charged with affiliation with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus justified the arrests on Thursday, saying during a speck at the Ataturk University, “No elected municipality board can have the right to support terrorist groups.”
Responding to previous accusations that they received municipal funds after Ankara removed 28 mayors for alleged links to the PKK and the Gulen movement, Murat Karayilan, a member of the PKK’s Executive Committee, described the allegations as a “big lie,” adding that the PKK does not want or need funds from municipalities, ANF, a media outlet close to the PKK, reported in September.