“School Milk Project” fiasco in Turkey
Turkey has recently witnessed one of the most embarrassing and ridiculous scandals ever throughout the history of the Republic.
The Ministry of Education decided to start a program called “school milk project” a while ago which was about to distribute free milk to millions of primary education students at schools. Everything started quite cheerfully. For the first few hours of distribution, the small boxes of milk brought credit to the government.
Everything was going on the right track until news arrived from 12 different cities. As the hours went by, the news outlets had difficulty keeping up with the rising number of kids hospitalized with symptoms of food poisoning – as described at the time.
When journalists wanted to confirm the bad news, some government officials to include governors came up with a particularly interesting argument: “The kids are not poisoned. The whole thing is psychological.” This in turn inspired (ina way tempted) Redhack to “psychologically” hack the websites.
The below article is about this unlucky – for the authority surely – happening and is written by ECE TEMELKURAN.
Temelkuran is one of Turkey’s best-known journalists and political commentators. Her investigative journalism books broach subjects that are highly controversial in Turkey, such as Kurdish and Armenian issues, women’s movement, and political prisoners. She has published widely and won numerous awards for her work, including the Pen for Peace Award and Turkish Journalist of the Year. Also she was a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. As a writer she published ten books and two of her books; Deep Mountain, Across the Turkish-Armenian Divide and Book of the Edge has been also published in English. Muz Sesleri (The Sound of Bananas) will be published in Arabic soon. You can follow her on Twitter @ETemelkuran
Kids in Turkey Plot Against the Government By Drinking Milk!
“You were the one who produced and distributed the bad milk, we heard. We decided to drop by and see who you are. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t think you are the only guilty party in this business. Those who fell for your moderate Islamic style mustache and the scent of the rose oil that you wear – the ones who granted you the contract in this milk business – are the real guilty party.
It is natural that such a filthy government has such filthy milk.
You have nowhere to run to. Because now there is Redhack!
PS: We didn’t really hack you. What you are seeing is only psychological!”
This text was seen on the websites of three big milk companies a few days ago in Turkey. An anonymous, dissident hacker group which call themselves Redhack left their note on the web pages with a souvenir photo. All the group members were wearing V for Vendetta masks in the photo and smiling.
Following the action, they were praised by many on social media platforms, some calling them “the Robin Hoods of Turkey.” One might think that the title Robin Hood is excessive for only having hacked the webpages of the three milk companies. Also, their message was not clear to people who do not know what has happened in Turkey over the last few days. Here is the story.
Four days ago the “school milk project” began. The plan was to distribute free milk to millions of students at schools. Everything started quite cheerfully. For the first few hours of distribution, the little boxes of milk brought glory to the government.
Then news arrived from 12 different cities. As the hours went by, the news outlets had difficulty keeping up with the rising number of kids that had been hospitalized with symptoms of food poisoning. When journalists wanted to confirm the bad news, some of the city mayors came up with a particularly interesting argument: “The kids are not poisoned. The whole thing is psychological.” This in turn inspired Redhack to “psychologically” hack the websites.
At the end of the first day, 1193 kids were hospitalized.
The following day, the media expected some statements on the matter to be released, at least some related to the physical state of the children rather than their psychological condition. So, the spokesman of the government, Bülent Arınç, took the stage only to shock the media even more. He said, “It is not poisoning. It might be overdose, though. In certain situations, when milk is drunk for the first time such cases might occur.” Although it was only three sentences long, the content of the statement was rich enough to create a flood of bitter jokes and even more outrage.
Most people were debating which was more outrageous: an authority announcing that kids “overdosed” on milk or revealing the fact that thousands of kids in Turkey tasted milk for the first time in their lives in primary school? Similar statements were made by other ministers. Even “kids being too hungry” was given by the officials as a probable reason for hospitalization.
Since a certain amount of rage was expressed in the social media – not the mainstream press, of course – the political authority was quick to condemn the “unfair reaction” to their great project. The Minister for Nutrition, Agriculture, and Livestock Mehdi Eker said that “the government will continue with the school milk project despite the provocations.”
After this statement many on social media platforms were predicting that the government might interrogate the hospitalized kids for “plotting against the government by letting themselves be seriously poisoned.”
Some had said that actually there was nothing wrong with the milk but the kids were not right, therefore the kids should be checked and fixed, not the milk.
Then came the second day of the milk distribution project. One might expect that after such a reaction more care would be taken, but that was not the case. Starting from the morning hours, news started flowing. Hundreds of kids were in hospital.
One would be extremely unfair or partisan against Islam to claim that the government did this on purpose. But on the second day of the school milk campaign we learned from the op-ed written by Yalçın Doğan in Hürriyet daily that the government was recently presented with a motion in parliament concerning the regulations on the school milk project. Republican People’s Party MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu submitted a motion against the government concerning the standards that the government applied to those companies who are selling milk to the state. Unsurprisingly, it was not answered then and is still unanswered. None of the milk companies made any public statements either.
Last February, at his party’s youth branch meeting, Prime Minister Erdoğan gave an extremely exciting speech to his young followers. One sentence of his was particularly memorable. He said, “I want a young person who holds onto their religion! I want a youth who holds onto their grudge!”
Therefore, he should not be surprised if not only his kids have a grudge. Since the hospitalized children are already “overdosed” and obviously have some psychological issues, no one can know what they will be up to when they grow up.
This article was originally published on Al Akhbar English, May 5th, 20120