Opposition CHP’s Istanbul chief blasts gov’t over crackdown on military offensive critics

The Istanbul provincial head of the secular main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Canan Kaftancıoğlu, on Saturday blasted the government over its crackdown on critics of the military offensive in northern Syria and questioned the casualties of the operation.

The CHP official said those defending peace were labelled as traitors by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the incursion in northeast Syria targeting the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey sees the YPG as a threat due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over 30 years. 

“How have people, who have been defending peace and expressing that war does not help anyone since the day the operation was launched, been silenced and how are they being punished? How is it that did they labelled those who defend peace as traitors?’’ the CHP chairwoman told Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Ankara has pursued a crackdown on those who criticised the military offensive with social media users and mayors being detained and politicians, journalists, and celebrities facing hate speech and threats. A total of six pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) mayors and dozens of officials have been detained as part of the crackdown.

“Six soldiers and 21 civilians were killed. I want to ask why these people lost their lives,’’ Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted Kaftancı as saying.

The offensive, launched on Oct. 9, began with a stated objective to establish a safe zone along Turkey’s border for the return of up to 3 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees the country currently hosts. Turkey agreed on Thursday to stop the offensive for five days so that the YPG could withdraw.

Kaftancıoğlu also criticised the ruling party’s foreign policy for "making sudden decisions without weighing in on the next step in order to maintain its power in domestic politics.’’