Turkey is cracking down hard on internal dissent at the same time it lashes out against foreign criticism of “Operation Peace Spring,” its invasion of Syria to attack the Kurds.
Turkish police on Wednesday announced legal action against 78 people for “inciting hatred through a smear campaign on social media” against the operation.
The report from Turkey’s Andalou Agency on the police action provided no details about the accused or what they supposedly did to “smear” the operation. It merely offered a single-sentence quote from the Turkish Security General Directorate – “We will continue our fight against crime and criminals in every field as well as in the virtual environment” – before dumping ten paragraphs of justifications for the invasion, including the routine assertion that all Syrian Kurdish militia groups are allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdish separatist party and terrorist organization in Turkey.
Another Andalou Agency report from Wednesday accused supporters of the PKK and the main Syrian Kurdish militia organization, the People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), of waging a “disinformation campaign” against the invasion through social media:
The terror group supporters posted on social media an image of bodies of children, claiming that the Turkish military killed those children during anti-terror operations Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield in Syria.
In fact, it showed an image of bodies of children killed during the 1992 Khojaly Massacre.
The Khojaly Massacre is seen as one of the bloodiest incidents of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of the now-occupied Upper Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
Andalou claimed it has been “revealed” that the PKK ordered its supporters to “share fake images and news online” to “smear” previous Turkish counter-terrorist operations, using similar tactics of associating photos from long-ago and far-distant atrocities with Turkish military operations.
Neither Andalou report made it clear if the PKK supporters posting photos of dead children are among the 78 people subjected to legal action by the Turkish police, but that seems to be the major “smear campaign” occupying the attention of Turkish media at the moment.
An editorial at Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News on Thursday accused American congressional representatives and media organizations of running another “smear campaign” against the Turkish invasion:
Reactions to Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” have been based on two things: Promoting the role that the SDF [the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces], as the U.S. ally east of the Euphrates and spreading fear over the resurgence of ISIL [the Islamic State], although Trump has already made clear the fight against the group was won.
Ankara is perfectly aware of this campaign pursued in Washington: It sees that this campaign suggests the following claims:
-Trump has left the U.S. Congress and the U.S. allies in the dark.
-The United States has left Kurds who fought against the ISIL for dead.
-The U.S. has abandoned and betrayed its ally, the SDF, in Syria.
-The Turkish army has no intention, wish or capacity to bear the responsibility in defeating ISIL.
-Released ISIL captives may form terror cells or return to Europe.
According to the Hurriyet op-ed, these criticisms qualify as a “smear” because Turkey is dedicated to fighting the Islamic State, which has committed bloody atrocities in Turkey, and would have made a better partner for the U.S. in that regard than the Kurds.
“It’s also a fact that it was the YPG which has long been threatening the U.S. and other Western nations by releasing captive ISIL members or making deals with ISIL when necessary. Turkey has the intelligence that the YPG has facilitated the infiltration of around 20 ISIL members into Turkey just in the last year,” the editorial asserted.
The Hurriyet op-ed castigated European nations for not doing enough to deal with captured Islamic State fighters who came from Europe and leaving Turkey to bear the burden of the Syrian refugee crisis.
Along those lines, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday threatened to “open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way” if Europe condemns Operation Peace Spring as an “occupation.”