At least 16 people have been arrested by Turkish courts on Saturday across Turkey for allegedly promoting the outlawed PYD/PKK armed group’s propaganda on social media against Turkish military’s ongoing intervention in northwestern Syria.
A court in İstanbul 9 people, who were charged with “insulting public official,” “inciting hatred and enmity among public,” “insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” and “making propaganda of terrorist organization.”
In eastern Ağrı province, the court remanded three suspects in custody, while another suspect was released under judicial control. Separately, four suspects were remanded in custody in the northwestern Tekirdağ province on Saturday.
Meanwhile, German police halted a demonstration in Cologne on Saturday after some 15,000 Kurds took to the streets to protest Turkey’s incursion into the northern Syrian region of Afrin. According to police the march was dispersed due to banners in the crowd displaying symbols of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which are prohibited in Germany.
The protest was organized by NAV-DEM, a Kurdish association believed to be close to the outlawed PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Two people were arrested at the protest, which was held a week after the Turkish military launched an offensive targeting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria. More than 2,000 police officers were mobilized in advance for the march. Some of the placards carried by protesters read “Freedom for Kurdistan” and “Shame on you, Europe!”
Germany hosts some 1 million Kurds and 3 million people of Turkish origin, and authorities have warned of tensions between the two communities. Altercations have erupted between members of the two groups since Turkey launched its “Operation Olive Branch,” with several Turkish mosques in Germany vandalized.
“Turkey has launched a war of aggression that violates international law,” Kurdish community co-leader Mehmet Tanrıverdi told regional newspaper Heilbronner Stimme on Saturday.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and allegedly ISIL militants from the northwestern Afrin region. The Turkish General Staff has said the Afrin operation was aimed at establishing security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as “protecting the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.”
It said the operation was being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law. The military also said “utmost diligence” was shown to avoid collateral damage to civilians. Afrin has been administered by the PYD since July 2012 when the Bashar Assad regime left the city.