Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday lambasted former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ over remarks on a military operation in the Afrin region of Syria, saying that what is needed to be done about Başbuğ would be done, Cumhuriyet reported.
Başbuğ said on Thursday that Operation Olive Branch, which was launched on Jan. 20 by the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), should not be used for internal politics.
“Is it his job to say that it [the operation] is being used for politics? Shame on you! What is needed will be done about him,” Erdoğan told reporters.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, an ally of Erdoğan for the 2019 elections, also strongly criticized Başbuğ. “Those who says that our party is engaging in politics over the Afrin operation are without character,” he said.
Başbuğ, who was among the generals who were jailed as part of a trial concerning the clandestine Ergenekon organization, was released in March 2014 after spending 26 month in prison.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which strongly supported the case when it was launched in 2008, turned critical of the trial in 2013 and paved the way for the release of the convicts.
The Turkish government and President Erdoğan have reacted strongly to people who oppose the Afrin operation, and prosecutor’s offices have initiated investigations into those who share social media messages critical of the operation.
President Erdoğan on Jan. 21 warned the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (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.
Yusuf Ozan, a presenter for the pro-government Akit TV, on Sunday targeted the Cumhuriyet daily over a story it ran on the Afrin operation in Syria, saying Cumhuriyet journalists deserve to be executed.