Turkish government has detained 26 more people across Turkey on Tuesday for allegedly taking part in alleged “smear campaign” against Turkey’s military operation in northwestern Syrian province of Afrin.
According to a report by state-run Anadolu news agency (AA), in the eastern Ağrı province, 9 people, including the provincial head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Masuk Arpaç, were detained. During another operation in Agrı’s Patnos district, 8 others were detained on Tuesday.
Turkish government has detained 9 people in the western Balıkesir province on Tuesday following detention warrants issued by prosecutors.
The detentions came after Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lambasted those who have criticised the Afrin operation. Following Erdoğan’s speech Turkish police have detained hundreds of people. The Interior Ministry has announced on Monday that 311 people have been arrested for “spreading terrorist propaganda” on social media concerning Turkey’s operation in Afrin.
TURKISH MILITARY AND GOVERNMENT GEAR UP PROPAGANDA
The Turkish Armed Forces on Tuesday airdropped messages in three languages into northwestern Syria urging the public to take a stand against “terrorists.” According to a report by AA, the note addressing “Our brothers of Afrin,” the Syrian region where the operation is concentrated, begins with “Bismillahirrahmanirrahim”, Arabic for “in the name of God, the Merciful, the Gracious.”
The note, including the same text in Turkish, Arabic, and Kurdish, calls on the people to work together to establish peace, trust, and prosperity to the region. “It is time to stop the oppression and persecution of the treacherous PKK/PYD/YPG and ISIL terrorists who are shooting guns at their neighbors, destroying our mosques,” says the note.
“Do not allow terrorists to use your children, trample on you, your home, or your future. It is time to stay ‘stop’ to terrorists. Afrin belongs to the people of Afrin. Allah willing, to days of peace, health, tranquility, security and blessings in Afrin,” said the propaganda note.
Meanwhile, the Turkish General Staff on Tuesday has also slammed news reports that allegedly “aim to question the legitimacy” of Turkey’s ongoing military operation in Syria. In a statement, the military said: “The Turkish Air Force does not use napalm, chemical, biological or similar ammunition banned by international law and agreements.”
The statement has called out publications for tarnishing the operation in Afrin. “Some publications and activities have been observed that intentionally aim to question the legitimacy of the operation and spread disinformation. It is clear that such actions, which are based on lies and slander, are being taken and instructed by terrorist organizations and their followers,” claimed the statement.
The military also alleged that “religious and cultural buildings, historical sites, archeological ruins and public facilities are absolutely not among the targets of Turkish Armed Forces.”
Echoing what exactly Turkish military has stated, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli has also claimed on Tuesday that the Turkish army and Free Syrian Army (FSA) have never harmed any civilian during ongoing operation in Afrin.
Speaking to deputies in the Parliament Canikli claimed that “No civilian has been harmed in Operation Olive Branch of Turkish Armed Forces and the FSA. No civilian casualties in the operation “show Turkish nations’ sincerity and sensitivity” despite the terror group, which uses civilians as human shields.”
Canikli also said that so far there have been 29 soldiers were killed in the Afrin operation, “five from Turkish army, 24 from the FSA.” He also reiterated that 649 PKK/PYD/YPG militants had been neutralized during the operation. “Turkish Air Forces destroyed 458 targets which were being used as shelters and ammunition depots. Within the ground operation, 4,370 targets were hit,” he said.
However, while the Turkish government and military defend that the operation does not target civilians in Afrin, pro-Kurdish media have reported the killings of dozens of civilians, including a number of children. Pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) has claimed on Tuesday that 86 civilians have been killed, 198 people have been wounded during Turkish military’s operation in Afrin together with the Free Syria Army (FSA) militants.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 to remove PYD/PKK and allegedly ISIL militants from Afrin. According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as “protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.”