ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday warned his country’s restive Kurdish population not to demonstrate against an army invasion of the Afrin region in neighboring Syria’s north where Kurds there enjoy a de facto autonomy.
“Oh HDP, if you [dare to] get out on the street, let it be known that our security forces will be on your neck,” Erdogan said to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) during a rally of his supporters in the Bursa Province.
Erdogan’s remarks followed a condemnation by the HDP of the Turkish army’s continuous aerial attacks and a reported ground invasion to capture Afrin with the help of Islamist militants Ankara supports.
Continuous Turkish airstrikes have killed over a dozen people, including at least nine civilians in and around Afrin, since the beginning of the campaign.
Air strikes killed three civilians and wounded six others who were sheltering in a poultry farm near the village of Bini and Anabke in the countryside of Afrin. Ten civilians were still trapped under the rubble; activists told Kurdistan 24.
HDP’s Co-leader Serpil Kemalbay did not call for an uprising but urged “the people of Turkey not to remain silent to this invasion” which she said Erdogan launched to consolidate his rule.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), however, urged “support for the resistance of Afrin.”
Erdogan equated the opposition HDP which his administration has paralyzed with an ongoing crackdown launched in late 2016 with the PKK—outlawed for waging decades-long guerrilla warfare against the Turkish state over Kurdish self-rule.
With a nation-wide state of emergency in place since a failed military coup a year and a half ago and more powers granted to the judiciary and the national police force, authorities have already banned walks, demonstrations, and public meetings in all provinces.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Ankara launched investigations against HDP lawmakers Ayhan Bilgen and Nadir Yildirim for tweets criticizing Turkey’s offensive in Afrin.
“An operation targeting Afrin, if successful, will drag the country into civil war, and if unsuccessful will create the ground for a coup,” Bilgen tweeted a week ago amid rising threats from Ankara.
“An attempt to invade Afrin means a total war on the Kurdish people. Staying silent to this is dishonorable. Our honorable people in all four parts of Kurdistan will give the necessary response. Today is the day to mobilize,” Yildirim said in a tweet after attacks on Afrin began.
“Mind you, anyone making the mistake of getting out on to public squares will pay the heaviest price. I have to tell you because this is a national struggle. We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us,” Erdogan said, promising a swift victory.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany