Turkey protests: how activists stay one step ahead with social media

Copyright Thorsten Strasas

Copyright Thorsten Strasas

Turkish activists are evading the authorities thanks to innovative use of the internet, while hacker group Anonymous announces further attacks on government assets. The information battle begins.

This article originally appeared on telegraph.co.uk

Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Twitter as “the worst menace to society” in reaction to its use in protests that began with environmentalists fighting against the development of a park in Istanbul and then spread across the country.

It isn’t hard to see why.

Despite sporadic access to 3G networks and a rumour that the country’s largest mobile company TurkCell would have its service brought down, protesters have succeeded in using public and private networks to gain an edge on the authorities.

In the course of day’s protest, activists will make public announcements about their cause on Twitter and Tumblr, then switch to private maps, chats and groups on other networks to check in on fellow protesters.

Damla*, an activist in Ankara, is constantly refreshing private Facebook groups for updates, posting pictures onto Twitter, and using a popular app for group private messaging to talk to her friends.

She will receive links to maps only visible to fellow activists that show the location of makeshift clinics in houses and even in restaurants’ basements, and can watch live streams of protests on the Ustream service if she is at home.

She told the Telegraph: “It has had a massive impact, and if it wasn’t for social media we wouldn’t have the right information on anything. It’s been our saviour.”

Damla said the use of private group messaging meant activists could “react quickly to check whether we’re all safe”, and added that if access to Facebook and Twitter was temporarily disrupted, as it has been on each day of the protests, they would merely start communicating through the blogging site Tumblr instead.
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The CIA, Zero Dark Thirty and me: a female agent on life under cover


Lindsay Moran worked as a CIA agent for six years, recruiting informants and observing the increasing acceptance of torture during the Bush administration. She talks about life as a female spy.

This originally appeared on the Telegraph website

It is hard to think of a film that courted more controversy this year than Zero Dark Thirty.

The story of the real-life female CIA agent who spends a decade hunting down Osama Bin Laden was boycotted by a member of the Oscars judging panel, and its director Kathryn Bigelow accused of “normalising” torture.

The film also made in excess of $100 million, and was praised by critics worldwide for its ability to weave the exhausting 10 year search into a watchable whole, with the redheaded Maya (Jessica Chastain) pale and coolly focused at its centre.

For Lindsay Moran, former spy and vocal critic of the Bush-era CIA, a six-year career at the agency began in 1998, three years before Zero Dark Thirty begins.

Speaking on the phone from Washington DC, where she now lives with her husband and children, Moran talks with obvious excitement as she recalls learning the skills of an “operations agent” at “The Farm”, the CIA’s training facility rumoured to be based in Virginia.

She quickly learnt that a spy had to make friends easily, and with people for whom she might have little respect.

“It came easier to the women,” she says. “In fact, the CIA’s biggest secret is that the best guys are women”.

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex in the Middle East* But Were Afraid To Ask


Originally published on the Telegraph website

How do you start a revolution in the Arab bedroom while many in the Middle East are preoccupied with a bitter fight for their political future? For Sex and the Citadel author Shereen El Feki, the two are part of the same struggle.

Shereen El Feki, reluctant revolutionary in the disguise of a polite Egyptian-Canadian, is explaining the class distinctions of Cairo’s gay scene to the packed upstairs room of a London bar.

Petite with a pixie haircut, El Feki’s audience of mostly young women has its fair share of middle-aged gentlemen too, eager to hear her speak about what could be the most revealing take on Arab sexuality in 1,000 years in Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, an eye-popping audit of the frustrations Arab men and women face in the pursuit of sexual relationships.

Sensuality in Islamic literature has a long, though uneven, history, and one that El Feki thinks the Middle East has a unique opportunity to rediscover in the aftermath of the uprisings that began in late in 2010, as she tells me the next day.

El Feki describes her upbringing in Waterloo, a town near Toronto, as “very civilised,” spent largely in “academic surroundings” with her Cairo-born neurosurgeon father and her mother, a schoolteacher from Wales. “There was a Muslim community there, but being Muslim in the West was not an issue when I was growing up,” she says.

Post 9/11, that changed. Hardening attitudes to Muslims in the West, and the growing ranks of Muslim Brothers back in her father’s homeland pushed the two poles of her identity further and further apart. Sex became a lens through which to observe these changes.

Few Muslim taboos survive her systematic approach in the book. Impotence brought on by the stress of revolution, domestic violence, the anxiety to preserve virginity among the unmarried, female genital mutilation—all are scrutinised with the same uncompromising gaze.
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The future of the NHS

This week I have been working with our medical correspondent Stephen Adams on an investigation into A&E, maternity, paediatric and other ward closures in the NHS.

We analysed every English trust (Scotland and Wales have separate NHS systems) and checked out services for acute care across the board.

The findings are quite shocking. More than twenty A&E wards are threatened with closure or have already closed, and only a slightly smaller number of maternity wards have either closed or may do so when proposals by trusts are completed.

In addition, paediatric heart surgery has been scaled back from ten centres to seven. Centres of excellence like the Royal Brompton in London will no longer be saving children’s lives as the NHS is streamlined and savings are made.

These are called ‘public consultations’, but did we, the British public, really know this was happening to our health service on such a scale?

There is a genuine debate over whether reorganisation of services into larger units with more doctors can benefit patient care – but travel times are a real factor.

A&E and maternity units are services that people can’t hang around for, in the cases of heart attack and stroke victims or mothers giving birth, for example. And with tens more miles to travel, the guarantee of better care at the end of the journey may not be of comfort while patients are in transit.

London is particularly affected by the shakeup, though Manchester has seen many of these changes already to a largely positive response.

Better care, further away, or closer but patchier provision? It would be ideal if the British public didn’t have to choose between the two.

Freshers; Let It Be; Jemima West; Eric the Eel – my latest

Credit: xkcd

My last four months at the Telegraph have been varied, to say the least.

I interviewed Eric The Eel, quite possibly the slowest (and nicest) Olympic swimmer of all time, over the phone from Equatorial Guinea.

I spent an afternoon with the men taking on “The biggest Beatles job on the planet”, the John, Paul, George and Ringo obsessives behind the Let It Be musical.

Jemima West, the Sorbonne grad who made her name playing a prostitute in Maison Close, and a star in the making to my reckoning, will be in the forthcoming film of the mega-selling teen book series by Cassandra Clare – Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

We talked about Paris, how to tell your parents you’ve just shot an horrific rape scene, and the insanity of some of Maison Close – orgy covered in cake, anyone?

Finally a lot of you were very complimentary about my short survival guide for this year’s Freshers. I wish them luck – it can be a jungle out there.

You can keep up with all of my writing here.

Telegraph Olympic data and graphics blog launch


Olympic firsts from 1908-2012

The Telegraph launches the Olympics data and graphics blog today, and I will be doing the bulk of the posts with help from our graphics team and some guest writers and designers.

It’s a great place for those of you who may not be stats obsessives or Olympics fanatics, but who are interested in the social and political aspects of the games as well as split times and wind speeds.

This week we have posts with work from Ciaran Hughes and Paul Bradshaw, and we are working with Visualoop in Brazil as an external partner.

I’ve also got a Pinterest account going so all our graphics can be found in one place.

Read on…


New York Times Magazine ‘London’ issue

My first appearance in the New York Times Magazine is here in their ‘London’ issue, on the topic of ‘Migratory Models’.

The accompanying photography is by Gareth McConnell.

Every day, beautiful young people from all over the world descend on London in the hope of becoming fashion models. But what inspired the photographer Gareth McConnell to document this phenomenon was not the promise of glamour but the daily life of working immigrants.

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