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311 detained over social media messages on Turkey’s Afrin operation

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The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Monday that 311 people have been detained thus far for “spreading “terrorist propaganda” on social media concerning Turkey’s recent incursion into northwestern Syria, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey on Jan. 20 launched a military operation in the Afrin region of Syria, which is controlled by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD). Turkey sees the PYD as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Turkish government has reacted strongly to people who oppose the operation, and prosecutor’s offices have launched investigations into those who share social media messages critical of the operation. Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members and journalists have been the target of the witch-hunt against Afrin operation critics.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 21 warned the HDP not to take to the streets to protest the operation in Afrin: “You are being closely followed. If you try to take to the streets, know that our security forces will be at your neck.”

“If anyone is in the streets upon calls [from the HDP], they will pay dearly for it. This is a national fight, and whoever opposes us will be crushed.” Erdoğan added.

Kral FM radio host Ali Şentürk, known as “Afrikalı Ali,” called on security forces to kill anybody who criticizes Turkey’s operation in Afrin.

“I am calling on the police. They should show no mercy. The government has already given them the authority. They [police] should leave mercy aside against those who take to the streets [to protest the Afrin operation]. I even say: They should kill whoever takes to the streets. They should shoot them in the head even if they’re a member of Parliament, a businessman or a journalist,” Şentürk said during a radio program.

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