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VPN in Turkey: Everything You Need to Know!

Unfortunately, like China and other countries, Turkey experiences a lot of internet censorship. As of 2013, almost 30 000 websites were blocked by the Turkish government; that’s 10 000 more than there were in 2012. In the summer of 2015, the number of blocked sites soared to over 80 000, so it can be assumed that as of right now, there are over a million websites being blocked by Turkey.

Anyone who lingers in Turkey, or who lives there, experiences great difficulty accessing their desired websites. With a VPN service, however, it is possible to circumvent certain restrictions.

Why Do You Need VPN Access in Turkey?

The last few years have been extraordinarily turbulent in Turkey, especially if one considers the political situation and the resulting measures. In March 2014, President Erdoğan blocked the microblogging network Twitter. As of 2015, the issue remained unresolved, and the political situation became a minefield for social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and others to navigate. After Turkish opposition politicians were arrested in 2016, the government also blocked access to other social media, such as WhatsApp.

Having said this, the blocks are not permanent, but rather inconsistent, so that many Internet offerings were and are either partially accessible, or accessible with great difficulty. The government of Turkey has been repeatedly accused of blocking access to certain websites depending on the country’s political situation. Thus, the media’s reporting of political events can be suppressed.

Blocked Websites and Apps

There is no complete list presenting the blocked websites in Turkey. There are also temporary and permanent blocks in this country, which can change depending on the political situation and resistance.

Since 2017, for example, the information platform Wikipedia has been blocked across all languages. In general, many platforms that make accusations of terrorist support face closures and service blockages. This applies to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many other networks and media.

Spying by the Turkish Government

There have been frequent allegations that Turkey is spying on various countries. One example dates from 2018 when a Turkish opposition party was allegedly surveyed using a Trojan from Germany. The Turkish government is said to have used this to track down supporters of the Republican People’s Party.

In general, there have been numerous spying operations; in 2017 alone there were 17. The German government is thus concerned that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization could infiltrate both its Federal Intelligence Service and the Federal Criminal Police Office.

VPNs in Turkey: Legal or Not?

In Turkey, the blocking of websites is done for a reason. This means that the citizens of the country should not have access to forbidden websites. If they circumvent these official blocks, then, of course, it is considered an illegal activity.

For visitors to the country, however, matters are different. VPNs are used to protect users and, above all, to avoid service blocks while on holiday. This is, of course, an annoyance to the Turkish government, which wants to make anonymous online activity impossible for both Turks and visitors.

Without a VPN, Which Websites and Apps are Blocked In Turkey?

Countless websites are blocked by the Turkish government if they do not comply with the country’s regulations. What these regulations are is not always clear, so many allegations are made regarding restriction of press and media liberty.

The government takes particular action against services and websites that publish content the government considers to be of terrorist nature. There are many procedures and investigations underway, and so a complete list of blocked websites does not exist.

Important: Many sites in Turkey (apart from Wikipedia) are only blocked occasionally depending on the political situation. Nevertheless, it is advisable to use a VPN, if only to protect your own internet activities.

2016 Attempted Coup and Media Blackout

In July 2016, there was an attempted coup d’état in Turkey. On July 27 2016, the president declared a state of emergency. Initially, only media suspected of belonging to the Gülen movement were blocked. Later, media that were considered close to the PKK or who were pro-Kurdish were also blocked. Smaller leftist media also experienced blocks.

At the time there was no real justification beyond the immediate closures of the

  • Radio stations,
  • TV stations,
  • Newspapers,
  • Journals
  • Publishers
  • and distribution channels

From 2016 to 2018, this would cover a total of seven news agencies, 14 national newspapers, 38 regional or local newspapers, 31 television stations, 32 radio stations, 20 magazines, and 28 publishing/distribution companies.

This amounts to 170 different closures within three years! The blocks not only affected the respective media but their websites as well. In line with this, many news portals were blocked. The subject of freedom of the press in Turkey remains a difficult one and is also why travelers should employ a safe and respectable VPN in order to avoid restrictions.

Wikipedia Block

The suspension of Wikipedia was initiated by the Turkish government in April 2017. This decision was based “only” on the publication of two articles in Wikipedia, which were deemed damaging to the reputation of the Turkish Republic.

All foreign language editions of Wikipedia are equally affected by the ban. In May 2017 there was a request from the Wikimedia Foundation to lift the ban, but this request was rejected by the 1st Criminal Court in Ankara. This was followed by a constitutional complaint before the Constitutional Court of Turkey; the case could even end up before the European Court of Human Rights. To remain up-to-date, users regularly update the associated Wikipedia article.

Instruction: VPN in Turkey with Shellfire

If you wish to make your location anonymous in order to access the Internet without restrictions while traveling in Turkey, you should use a VPN. This way you can travel anonymously, protect your own activities and even avoid government blocks.

Shellfire VPN
If you decide to use a Shellfire VPN, you can easily download free software for your device. It is available on all major platforms, whether you want to connect it to a computer or a mobile device.

Please visit our download page for links to Shellfire’s free software offerings.

Shellfire Box

The second option is hardware, i.e. a box that you can connect yourself. Just set it up, plug it in and the rest runs almost automatically. Just connect the box to your desired device to establish a VPN connection of your choice.

There are numerous advantages associated with the Shellfire hardware, which is easy to install and handle, and which at the same time works reliably and safely. Use it optionally for consoles or TV-sticks/boxes and especially for uncensored internet if you are in Turkey.

Follow this link for more information about the Shellfire Box!

Conclusion

Many websites are still blocked by the Turkish government, such as the information platform Wikipedia. Social networks and other media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others), on the other hand, are occasionally blocked, depending on the political situation at the time. Of course, many companies and organizations are resisting the government’s restrictions, and numerous proceedings and investigations are underway.

As a normal citizen, using a VPN in Turkey is the easiest way to get around all the stress and establish a secure and anonymous connection for surfing the net.

Image: Mykhailo Polenok / 123RF

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