Critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have accused him of hypocrisy for harshly criticizing Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Hamas attacked Israel, pointing to the civilian casualties caused by his government’s airstrikes on Kurds in Syria.
On Saturday Hamas fighters carried out an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel, launching thousands of rockets from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and crossing the border with hundreds of militants. The Islamist group killed more than 1,100 Israelis and more than a hundred people, prompting Israel to retaliate by pounding Gaza.
“Water is not being provided to Gaza. There is no electricity, it’s not being given. We don’t know the situation of the hospitals, whether they can operate or not. Unfortunately, places of worship, hospitals and schools, all are being ruthlessly struck; while these things happen, the world is silent. No one is saying anything. What about human rights?” Erdoğan posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday.
Erdoğan’s tweet drew the ire of many, who branded his plea for preventing civilian suffering as hypocritical, highlighting the Turkish government’s airstrikes targeting Kurdish settlements in northern Syria.
The official X handle of the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP) quoted Erdoğan’s tweet and said, “A large portion of Northern and Eastern Syria is unable to receive water and electricity, multiple hospitals have been bombed and rendered unusable. Agricultural areas have been bombed, and those responsible have openly admitted to committing this war crime!”
Earlier this month, Turkey had conducted airstrikes against militant targets in northern Iraq and Syria after the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for a bombing near government buildings in Ankara that injured two police officers.
Northern Iraq is the base of the outlawed PKK, which has carried out many deadly attacks in Turkey over decades.
Turkish operations in Syria are directed against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a militia that Ankara considers a terrorist group linked to the PKK. The YPG is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The downing of a Turkish drone in Syria last week by the United States underscored the tension between the two NATO allies over the YPG.
According to a special analysis by Reuters published on Tuesday, citing data by the global research organization Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) that collects reports from media outlets, government reports, nongovernmental groups and other sources, in 2022, Turkey carried out at least 2,044 airstrikes in mostly Kurdish areas of Iraq and Syria. These aerial operations have increasingly put civilian lives at risk and raised questions about adherence to international humanitarian law.
According to Reuters’ analysis of ACLED’s data, between early 2016 and the first half of 2023, more than 500 civilians and nearly 2,600 members of the PKK, SDF and affiliates were killed in Turkish airstrikes in mainly Kurdish areas of Iraq and Syria
Turkish airstrikes have also hit health facilities, with at least eight medical centers affected between 2018 and mid-2023.
Legal experts have gone on the record stating that such attacks likely constitute war crimes.
erdogan says cutting electricity and water to gaza is human rights violation – while he boms power plants and water stations in syria.
he says gaza houses of worship and clinics are hit and everybody is silent – he hit a mosque in makhkur and clinic in syria: world wide crickets. https://t.co/7ZfiFeK4hC
— Frederike Geerdink (@fgeerdink) October 11, 2023
“When Kurds are killed, it’s ‘oh well,’ when Palestinians are killed, it’s ‘how sad’ When you speak of the ‘rightful struggle of the Kurdish people’ they’re called ‘terrorists,’ but when you speak of the ‘rightful struggle of the Palestinian people’ it’s ‘long live the rightful struggle of the Palestinian people’ You two-faced hypocrites,” writer Hilal Nesin posted on X.
“We will all rightly protest when Palestinians are killed, but will you applaud when Kurds are killed in northeast Syria? If the Kurdish and Palestinian question in the Middle East is not solved, there will be no peace and no democracy,” YSP lawmaker Saruhan Oluç said.
Vile hypocrisy from Erdogan, whose air force has in the last few days bombed yet more civilian targets in Rojava/North East Syria, killing innocent people in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds https://t.co/9Cf38wi4Rm
— Ross Greer (@Ross_Greer) October 10, 2023
Pro-Erdoğan journalists jumped on the bandwagon of criticism of Israel’s Gaza operation, also receiving their share of accusations of hypocrisy.
Erem Şentürk, one such pro-Erdoğan journalist, posted a photo of a child with burns, claiming he was the victim of Israel’s illegal use of white phosphorus in civilian areas.
He had to delete his tweet after it was pointed out to him that the photo actually belonged to a Syrian Kurdish child who was wounded in a Turkish bombing in 2020.
And the State Dept spox refuses to condemn the Turkish airstrikes that have hit 180+ civilian sites in NE Syria, wiping out power, water, and fuelling stations.
So why would NATO member Turkey stop bombing civilians in the areas it plans to occupy next? pic.twitter.com/2m7BdtTzu0
— Lindsey Snell (@LindseySnell) October 10, 2023
Responding to a question about Turkish attacks on civilian facilities in Syria, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Tuesday that the United States remains concerned about military activity in northern Syria and its impact on civilians and infrastructure, but without condemning Turkey.