The Speaker of Turkey’s National Assembly on Saturday described a now week-long military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria’s Afrin as “jihad.”
Speaker Ismail Kahraman’s use of the Islamic definition of “holy war” came amid rising religious rhetoric from the government circles targeting Kurdish political parties and the larger Kurdish movement in Syria and Turkey as well.
“Look, we are now in Afrin. We are a big state. Without jihad, there can be no progress, one cannot stand on their feet,” Kahraman said, praising the campaign against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that the US trained and armed in the war on the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
He was also critical of the US military presence in the Middle East and elsewhere globally, in his remarks aired on the state TV.
Kahraman had created a heated debate in 2016 when he told a convention of Muslim scholars that secularism would have no place in a new constitution for the country.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, later in the day, said the YPG, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as IS had no “religion, faith, or God.”
During Friday prayers this week, sermons held across some 90,000 mosques in the country focused on national unity and military victories of the Turkish past.
Imams asked for the Turkish army’s victory in Afrin.
Last week, when Ankara launched its “Operation Olive Branch” to capture Afrin from the YPG, Turkey’s top Islamic body, Diyanet, ordered clerics across the county to read aloud the 48th chapter of the Quran, Surah al-Fath (the chapter of Conquest).
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) condemned Diyanet, the Directorate of Religious Affairs that serves only the Sunni Muslim majority population of the constitutionally secular country, over the order.
Himself a scholar of Islam, HDP lawmaker Nimetullah Erdogmus accused Diyanet of turning Quranic verses into “a motto of invasion and wars,” stating that the chapter in question was in fact related to a peace agreement—the seventh-century Treaty of Hudaybiyyah—between Islam’s Prophet Mohammad and his pagan Arab opponents.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany