ISTANBUL – Turkish authorities have arrested 150 people for online criticism of Turkey’s military incursion into the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, the Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.
Eleven of the 150 have been placed in preventive detention.
Authorities said that by sharing criticism of Turkey’s “Olive Branch” operation on social media, the detainees acted as propagandists for the Turkish-based PKK Kurdish guerrillas, which Ankara equates with the Syrian Kurdish YPG outfit that currently controls Afrin.
While the organizations maintain close ties and both claim inspiration from Abdullah Oçalan, imprisoned in Turkey since 1999, the YPG denies having any hostile intent toward the Turkish government.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Monday that authorities would tolerate no public protests against the Afrin offensive and 13 people who tried to mount a demonstration in Istanbul were arrested.
Several regional officeholders affiliated with the leftist HDP, the third-largest party in parliament and a defender of Turkey’s Kurdish minority, were also taken into custody on Wednesday after speaking out against Olive Branch.
Nine other HDP lawmakers and officials who were already behind bars have initiated a hunger strike to protest the Afrin intervention.
Also Wednesday, 173 Turkish intellectuals, writers and journalists signed an open letter to parliament urging an immediate end to the military operation and pursuit of dialogue to settle differences with the Kurds in Afrin.