As Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria began, Turkish social media users took their thoughts to Twitter, causing dozens of hashtags to trend on the platform.
The Twitter frenzy began on Oct. 7 after the White House announced that U.S. troops would be withdrawing from the Syrian border, paving the way for Ankara to launch its long-sought offensive.
Thousands of social media users tweeted their support using the hashtag “#OperationPeaceSpring,” which was announced as the name of the offensive.
Contrary to supportive messages, there were also thousands of tweets sent with the hashtag “#NoToWar,” which prompted criticism from the government.
Topics regarding the offensive were also trending worldwide, with “#KurdsBetrayedByTrump” being the main hashtag used by those against the military operation.
As Twitter became a platform for Turkish social media users to state their opinions on the operation, the country’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that 121 people were detained for social media posts critical of the offensive.
Nearly 500 people were investigated for characterizing Turkey as an “invading” force and “insulting” the offensive, he added.
A number of Turkish and U.S. officials also used hashtags on Twitter, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
While Trump used the hashtag “#EndEndlessWars,” Graham, a staunch opponent of Turkey’s military offensive, wrote “#StandWithTheKurds.”
Diplomacy, meanwhile, was also carried to Twitter, with U.S. and Turkish officials replying to each other’s remarks through the platform.
“If Turkey moves into northern Syria, sanctions from hell – by Congress – will follow. Wide, deep, and devastating sanctions,” Graham tweeted on Oct. 8, which was met with harsh rebuke from Turkey’s envoy to the U.S. Serdar Kılıç.
“Dear Senator, our main objectives are ensuring safety and security of our citizens, achieving peace and stability in our region and preserving territorial integrity and political unity of Syria. Which one of these goals, in your mind, justify these undue threats to a KEY NATO ALLY,” Kılıç said.
Graham sent another tweet a day later, this time citing bipartisan opposition towards Turkey’s operation.
“To the Turkish Government: You do NOT have a green light to enter into northern Syria. There is massive bipartisan opposition in Congress, which you should see as a red line you should not cross,” the senator tweeted on Oct. 9.
In his reply, Kılıç slammed the U.S. for its support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“I would expect a politician of your caliber to listen to views of genuine owners of Syria about YPG/PYD/PKK, before resorting to undue threats against Turkey,only true friend of Syrian people,including Syrian kurds,suffering at the hands of terrorists that claim to represent them,” he said, using abbreviations for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey has been waging a war against the PKK for nearly 40 years and deems the YPG, which was a key U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, to be the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Another Turkish official to slam Graham’s Oct. 9 tweet was Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, who replied by saying that the military offensive has already begun.
“Senator, I am writing to inform you that Turkey and the Syrian National Army launched Operation Peace Spring today. I heard that we may have ran a red light. It was an emergency. We were in a rush to unleash hell on PKK and ISIS terrorists, who threatened our citizens,” Altun said.