The Turkish government detained 169 people last week over their alleged social media posts criticising a Turkish military campaign in the Afrin province of northern Syria.
According to a statement released by the Turkish Interior Ministry, at least 690 social media accounts were investigated last week, and legal action was taken against 169 people. The statement included “hate speech” as among the reasons for the prosecutions.
“A total of 690 social media accounts that propagandize for terrorist organizations, promote these organizations and openly express their affiliation with these organizations; incite people to enmity, hatred and hostility; insult public officials; make an attempt on the state’s indivisible integrity and people’s safety; and make hate speech have been investigated, and legal action was taken against 169 people,” said the statement.
The Interior Ministry stated on February 26 that 845 people who criticized the Afrin operation on social media and attended demonstrations were detained.
The Turkish military stated on Monday that at least 2,777 People’s Protection Units/Kurdistan Workers’ Party (YPG/PKK) and alleged Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Meanwhile, Afrin’s Health Council on Sunday revealed the number of civilian casualties had risen to 212, calling for medical aid to be sent to the Afrin Hospital. “Medicine and medical aid are insufficient. Turkish bombardment on the city continues, and the number of casualties has increased,” Angela Rasho, co-chair of Afrin’s Health Council, said on Sunday at a press conference.
Rasho added that 33 civilians have been killed as a result of Turkish shelling since the UN Security Council called for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria on Feb. 24. “Now, the number of civilian casualties has reached 212, of which 28 were children, 25 women, and 159 men,” she added. Rasho mentioned that so far 612 civilians have been wounded, among them 76 children and 82 women.
Recent UN reports state that over 15,000 people have been displaced in Afrin since the start of the Turkish military operation.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to capture Afrin province in northwestern 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.”