Turkish parliament speaker calls Afrin offensive ‘jihad’

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İsmail Kahraman

Speaker of the Turkish Parliament İsmail Kahraman on Saturday described as a “jihad” a Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish armed groups in the northern Syrian region of Afrin.

Kahraman’s use of the Islamic term for holy war came amid rising religious rhetoric from Turkish government circles targeting Kurdish political parties and the larger Kurdish movement in Syria and Turkey.

“Look, we are now in Afrin. We are a big state. Without jihad, there can be no progress, one cannot stand on their own two feet,” Kahraman said, praising the campaign against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that the US trained and armed in the war on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

Kahraman had sparked a heated debate in 2016 when he told a convention of Muslim scholars that secularism would have no place in a new constitution for the country.

Meanwhile, according to a report by Kurdistan24, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday that the YPG and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as ISIL had no “religion, faith or God.”

During Friday prayers this week, sermons delivered in some 90,000 mosques across the country focused on national unity and military victories in the Turkish past. Imams asked for the Turkish army’s victory in Afrin.

Last week, when Ankara launched its Operation Olive Branch to capture Afrin from the YPG, Turkey’s top Islamic body, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), ordered clerics across the county to read aloud the 48th chapter of the Quran, Surah al-Fath, the chapter of Conquest. (Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF] with Turkish Minute)

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