Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has promised on Saturday to honour a young girl with the Turkish flag if martyred, during a speech in Kahramanmaraş province.
According to a report by Ahval, among the party members’ cheers “Chief! Take us to Afrin,” President Erdoğan invited a little girl dressed as a soldier to the podium. “If she is martyred, we will honour her with the flag, God willing,” Erdoğan said.
With 90 percent of Turks supporting the Turkish military operation against the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region, Erdoğan has been using a gradually more nationalistic tone in his rallies.
Turkey will have three elections in a row in the upcoming year-and-a-half. Pro-government columnists Abdulkadir Selvi argued that the support for Erdogan’s governing party increased to nearly 50% since the Afrin operation launched.
Several Turkish children in military uniform had saluted President Erdoğan during a speech in the Turkish Parliament last week. Children that are being increasingly taken part on the social media in support of Afrin operation also create some backlash.
Opposition figures in Turkey slammed President Erdoğan on Saturday over remarks in which he wished martyrdom for a little girl in military uniform at a convention of his party. The leader of the newly-formed nationalist right-wing İYİ Party (Good Party), Meral Akçener, accused Erdoğan of being on the same path as the HAMAS.
“He is following HAMAS. I am calling on Mr. Erdoğan to stop being a loudmouth. Get serious,” said Akşener who leads a faction that splintered from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for allying with the President.
Aksener was talking at the southern Hatay province during a trip to show solidarity with the troops participating in the attack on Afrin, pro-government Doğan news agency reported. The Turkish Interior Ministry, meanwhile, did not grant her access for a visit to the command center of operations targeting the Kurdish region.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the only bloc that has opposed the Afrin campaign, was more critical of the radical Islamist President’s words. “The mindset that abuses children by promising them death will lose,” a tweet on the party’s official feed read. HDP deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü has also said, for Erdoğan it was now children’s turn to demonstrate a legitimacy for the war, reminding that international law bans drafting kids into an army.
Moreover, Erdoğan has talked about the mobilisation of the reserve units in his speech on Saturday and has called on people to check on call-up orders for the military. He has also said that he is ready to march with his people when the time comes.
On Jan. 20, Turkish military launched an operation to fight against YPG/PKK in Afrin province of northern Syria. According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as “to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.” The military also said only terror targets were being destroyed and that “utmost care” was being taken to not harm civilians.
A total of 1,951 PYD/PKK and allegedly ISIL militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch, Erdoğan said Saturday. Turkish authorities generally use the term “neutralize” to signify that the targets either surrendered or were killed or captured.
However, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), in a report on Saturday said that 259, including 40 Turkish soldiers were killed during the operation since Jan. 20. SOHR reporting said that 243 YPG and the self-defense forces were killed during Turkish shellings and attacks in Afrin countryside. The Turkish military announced that 32 Turkish soldiers were killed and 183 were injured.
Speaking to pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency (ANF) about civilian casualties on Thursday, Afrin Canton Health Council Co-chair Ancela Resho has stated that during the 34 days of the Turkish military operation against Afrin, 176 civilians, including 27 children and 21 women, have been killed, while 484 civilians were wounded, among them 60 children and 71 women.
Kurdish Red Crescent (Heyva Sor) has also announced on Wednesday that Turkish military’s shelling has killed 17 women and wounded 44 women seriously in Afrin province of northern Syria