01/30/2018, 10.20
TURKEY - SYRIA
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Ankara arrests over 300 people for protests against the Kurdish offensive

According to the government, the demonstrators promote "terrorist propaganda". In reality, they led demonstrations and online protests against the military operation.  Eight representatives of the medical union among the arrested. They had denounced the risk of a "public health problem" linked to the offensive.

Ankara (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Turkish authorities have arrested 311 people, accused of promoting "terrorist propaganda". In reality, the detainees had promoted demonstrations and protests, online and on the streets, against the offensive launched on 20 January by the Ankara army in Afrin, in northern Syria, against the Kurdish militias YPG (People's Protection Unit). According to the state agency Anadolu, among these there are also eight doctors members of the Union of Turkish doctors (Ttb), the main local trade union.

The Turkish leadership considers the YPG Kurdish militias, fundamental in the past in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis) and other jihadist groups in Syria, as a terrorist organization linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK, outlawed in the country). The PKK, the protagonist of a decade-long separatist struggle, is on the black list of extremist and terrorist movements of Turkey and its allies in the West.

The military operation launched by Ankara with land vehicles and air strikes intends to eliminate the YPG militia from the Afrin enclave, in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey. Police raids against dissidents and voices critical of the military operation have spread throughout the country, from Izmir to the Aegean Sea, to Igdir and Van in the eastern sector.

This new wave of arrests - which follows the thousands of detentions and convictions following the failed coup in July 2016 - raises concerns among activists and human rights groups. In recent days, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized Ankara for its "intolerance to criticism".

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan relaunched the call for national unity regarding the offensive and stresses once more that the demonstrators will pay "dearly" for their protests. Meanwhile, the spokesman of the head of state Ibrahim Kalin called on citizens and the media to pay attention to "fake and provocative news", especially online and on social networks.

This morning, the Turkish authorities finally confirmed the news of the arrest of eight doctors, belonging to the main trade union in the country. The eight arrested are all members of the central committee of the TTB, including the president Rasit Tükel. Last week, the leaders of the Turkish Medical Union had issued a statement critical of the Turkish offensive in Syria, stating that it was raising "a public health problem". In response, President Erdogan had defined the union members "traitors" of the fatherland.

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