Amnesty International has criticized Turkey for its detentions and arrests of people critical of the country’s recent military offensive in northeastern Syria.
In a report titled “We can’t complain,” the rights group branded the charges facing the people criticizing the incursion as “absurd.”
“Hundreds of people have been detained in Turkey for commenting or reporting on Turkey’s recent military offensive in northeast Syria and are facing absurd criminal charges as the government intensifies its crackdown on critical voices,” the report said.
Saying that Operation Peace Spring was accompanied by “a wave of repression that swept up anyone who deviated from the government’s official line,” Amnesty International noted that those detained or arrested face “terrorism” charges.
“As the tanks rolled across the Syrian border, the government took the opportunity to launch a domestic campaign to eradicate dissenting opinions from media, social media and the streets. Critical discussion on issues of Kurdish rights and politics has become even further off limits,” said Amnesty International’s Europe Director Marie Struthers.
“Language around the military incursion was heavily policed, and hundreds of people who expressed their dissenting opinions about Turkey’s military operation were rounded up and are facing investigations under anti-terrorism laws.”
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring with the rebels that it backs on Oct. 9 in order to clear its border from militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and to create a “safe zone.”
Dozens of people critical of the operation were detained after the offensive began and face charges of making the propaganda of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a group designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, Washington and the European Union.
In the first week of the offensive alone, 839 social media accounts were under investigation for “sharing criminal content” with 186 people reportedly taken into police custody and 24 remanded in pre-trial detention, according to official figures.
Dozens of supporters of the country’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were also detained, with the party’s lawmakers banned from making press statements as well.