President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday ordered the removal of the word “Turkish” from the name of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), which has been targeted by the government over a critical statement on the Turkish military’s ongoing operation in Afrin, Syria, Cumhuriyet reported.
“The word ‘Turkish’ in its name must be quickly removed,” Erdoğan told journalists following a speech at his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) group meeting at Parliament.
Erdoğan said the word “Turkish” must also be removed from the name of the Turkish Bar Association, which is known for its critical position on the government.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Jan. 29 launched an investigation into 11 TTB central council members for “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “inciting hatred and hostility among the people” after Erdoğan lambasted them for their statement criticizing the Afrin operation, while the Interior Ministry filed criminal complaints against them.
The eleven members of the TTB central council were detained last Tuesday for the critical statement, issued on Jan. 24 and titled “War is a Matter of Public Health,” in which the TTB called on the government to end the war: “No to war, peace immediately!”
The detainees were released on judicial probation on Friday and Monday.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched a military operation in Afrin, controlled by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees 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 initiated investigations into those who share social media messages critical of it. Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members and journalists have been the target of the witch-hunt against Afrin operation critics.
President 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 the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region of Syria.
Turkey’s Interior Ministry on Monday announced that 449 people have been detained on terror charges due to their posts on social media critical of the Turkish military incursion in Afrin, while 124 have been detained for taking part in street demonstrations protesting the operation.
Erdoğan’s ally Devlet Bahçeli, chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Tuesday called on the government to close the TTB.