Turkish gov’t detains 311 people for “spreading terror propaganda” on social media

Turkish government has detained a total of 311 people across Turkey for allegedly “spreading terror propaganda” on social media with regards to Turkish military’s intervention in Syria’s Afrin province. According to a written statement made by Turkish Interior Minister on Monday, after inspecting a total of 571 social media accounts, the anti-cybercrime branch of Turkish police have also launched legal proceedings against 208 people.

Since launching its 10-day-old air and ground offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin, Turkish authorities have warned they would prosecute those opposing, criticizing or misrepresenting the incursion. The Interior Ministry said on Monday a total of 311 people had been held for “spreading terrorist propaganda” on social media in the last 10 days. Detainees have included politicians, journalists and activists.

Turkey considers the US-backed YPG, which controls Afrin, to be a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has fought an insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984.

The military operation has been widely supported by Turkey’s mainly pro-government media and by most political parties, with the exception of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). But there have been dissenting voices.

Over the weekend, Turkish media reported that 170 artists had written an open letter to lawmakers from Erdogan’s ruling AK Party calling for an immediate end to Turkey’s incursion. Last week the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) denounced the cross-border operation, saying “No to war, peace immediately.”

Meanwhile, a crowd attacked a building belonging to Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Sunday. Pictures from the scene appeared to show the HDP building in İstanbul’s Pendik district vandalized and racist, sexist graffiti drawn on walls. The attack is believed to be organized in support of Turkish military operations in the Afrin region of Syria against

Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians since 2016. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched a military operation called “Operation Olive Branch” against PYD/PKK armed groups from Afrin in northwestern Syria. According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as “to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.”

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