In a clear instance of vexatious litigation, a Turkish court has blocked the Web site of prominent evolutionist Richard Dawkins following complaints from Islamic creationist and author Adnan Oktar. Oktar, who writes under the nom de plume Harun Yahya, filed the complaint last week; when Turkish Internet users now attempt to access Dawkins’ site, they are presented with a message that reads: ‘access to this site has been suspended in accordance with a court decision’.
This is not the first time Oktar has been involved in such litigation. In April 2007, Oktar successfully filed a defamation complaint against Turkish online news site Eksi sozluk. Oktar filed the complaint because of comments that users of Eksi sozluk had posted about him; a similar site, Superpoligon, was also blocked. Access to Eksi sozluk was restored shortly after the complaints were filed, and the offending remarks removed by the site's administrator.
Less than four months later, Oktar appealed to WordPress.com to remove a number of blogs which he deemed slanderous. Following an unfavorable reaction from WordPress, Oktar again filed a complaint with the Turkish judicial system, which in turn blocked WordPress within Turkey. Oktar's complaint was based on a number of blogs created by rival Edip Yuksel, a prominent dissident. To date, WordPress remains blocked, despite numerous campaigns to unblock the site. Turkish bloggers now use Wordprexy, a mirror site set up by activist group Great Firewall of Turkey, to read and post to WordPress blogs. Less than six months later, Oktar filed a complaint against Google Groups, which led to that site being blocked within Turkey as well (Google.com remained accessible; only the subdomain groups.google.com was filtered). It is once again available.
Oktar's latest rancor is directed at Richard Dawkins, a British ethologist and evolutionary biologist. Following the release of Oktar's creationist book, Atlas of Creation, Dawkins wrote on his Web site:
“I am at a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the breathtaking inanity of the content.”
Oktar, who was involved in the attempt to ban Dawkins’ book The God Delusion in Turkey, retaliated by filing a complaint in regards to Dawkins’ Web site. A Turkish judicial court sided with Oktar, and ordered Turk Telecom to ban the site.
In each instance, the foreign press was quick to assume that the blockings were related to Turkey's rising Islamist party, the AKP. It is perhaps more alarming that politics had little to do with it. It is surprising that Oktar, considered a charlatan by the Turkish public, and having so recently run afoul of the law, carries so much weight in the Turkish judicial system.
In fact, Oktar carries neither more nor less weight than anyone else. According to a recent Reuters article, a law passed in May now allows the Telecommunications Directorate to close down websites based on complaints by individual users, thus enabling anyone with a complaint to get a site blocked. The problem therefore lies in the ease with which anyone can file such a complaint.
On Oktar's Web site, HarunYahya.com, there is a quote from the Qur'an: “Truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Falsehood is always bound to vanish.” If Dawkins’ work is the falsehood Oktar is referencing, then indeed he has succeeded in making it “vanish”…if only from the Turkish Internet.