Erdoğan’s laughter days after deaths of Turkish troops sparks outrage

A speech delivered by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday, in which he shared a joke and laughed while narrating a conversation with his U.S counterpart, days after an attack that left 36 Turkish troops killed has sparked ire with criticism by the country’s opposition leader and on Turkish social media.

Erdoğan, during a meeting with his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Istanbul deputies, shared a conversation he had with Trump, in which the pair talked about their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

"Yesterday [U.S. President Donald] Trump asked ‘What business do they have there’?’’ Erdoğan said, referring to the U.S. president’s question over Moscow’s involvement in Syria.

"I told him there is oil in [the northeastern Syrian city of] Qamishli’. He [Trump] then asked ‘Is there oil there?’ and I said there was, ‘but not as much as there is in Deir ez Zor,’’ the Turkish president said, laughing afterwards.

U.S. troops are stationed in the Deir ez Zor province to guard the region's rich oil fields.

Erdoğan’s words were met with applause by AKP deputies.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, blasted Erdoğan over the episode, saying Turkey’s strongman was laughing while the nation had not yet buried dozens of troops who lost their lives following an Syrian government forces airstrike in the last rebel-held province of Idlib.

"The bodies of the soldiers have yet to be buried. What kind of laughter is this?’’ a visibly upset Kılıçdaroğlu as telling reporters. 

Turkey suffered its deadliest attack in a single day to date in neighbouring Syria on Thursday.

The CHP leader also blasted Erdoğan for continuing to attack him during a time of mourning for the country, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

"Let us wish our condolences for this country, let us not fight on a day like this,’’ he added.   
Meanwhile, social media users in the country started the hashtag #negülüyorsunerdoğan (What are you laughing at Erdogan?) with over 100,000 users chiming in to protest the president.

"36 soldiers were martyred, thousands of journalists are imprisoned unlawfully, dictatorship goes on, economy shrinks, citizens are unhappy, but guess what? He is smiling,’’ one Twitter user sharing the hashthag.

"Imagine 36 soldiers of your country killed(for any reason) and your president or prime minister is smiling in his first speech. What would you say?’’ another user said.

One user shared photos of the Turkish troops killed in Thursday’s attack, alongside an image of Erdoğan laughing during his speech.