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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Turkey arrests more than 300 over criticism of Syrian offensive

Iran Press TV

Mon Jan 29, 2018 04:05PM

Turkey has arrested more than 300 people for social media posts criticizing its military offensive against US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria's northwestern region of Afrin.

The Interior Ministry said on Monday that a total of 311 people, including politicians, journalists and activists, had been detained for "spreading terrorist propaganda" on social media over the last 10 days.

Since launching an air and ground offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin on January 20, senior authorities in Ankara have warned they would prosecute those opposing, criticizing or misrepresenting the cross-border incursion.

Critics also accuse Ankara of unjustly targeting pro-Kurdish politicians. Some lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have been jailed on terrorism charges, which they deny.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), a union for doctors, which had opposed the cross-border campaign of betrayal and treason.

"Believe me, they are not intellectuals at all, they are a gang of slaves. They are the servants of imperialism," Erdogan told ruling AK Party members in the northern province of Amasya on Sunday.

The union had denounced the cross-border operation, saying "No to war, peace immediately."

"This 'No to war' cry by this mob ... is nothing other than the outburst of the betrayal in their souls ... This is real filth, this is the honorless stance that should be said 'no' to," the president added.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag also said on Twitter Saturday that the TTB and the Turkish Engineer and Architect Chambers Association (TMMOB), which has backed the medics, cannot use the word "Turkish" in their names, saying they did not represent Turkish medics, engineers and architects.

The Interior Ministry said later it had started a probe into the TTB's actions.

The TTB in a statement has rejected the accusations directed at it, saying remarks by senior government officials had made it a target of attacks.

Over the weekend, Turkish media reported that 170 artists had written an open letter to lawmakers from Erdogan's AK Party, calling for an immediate end to Turkey's incursion.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria and largely dominated by the YPG, has pledged to give an "appropriate response" to Turkish assaults. Washington supports the SDF.

Turkey has warned Washington that there could be a confrontation between Turkish and American troops in northern Syria if arms transfer to the Kurds was not stopped.

Operation Olive Branch in Afrin is Turkey's second major military intervention in Syria since 2011.

In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral campaign in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its move was aimed at pushing Daesh Takfiri terrorists from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, themselves fighting Daesh.

Turkey ended its campaign in northern Syria in March 2017, but at the time did not rule out the possibility of yet another act of military offensive inside the Arab country.

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