A Twitter campaign launched against Turkey’s offensive on Kurdish targets in Iraq and allegedly in Syria went viral in Turkey, with users with opposite views posting tens of thousands of tweets on the social media platform.
#NATOStopErdogan campaign, referring to the Turkish president and launched by Kurdish activists just before a NATO meeting on Monday, aimed “to call on NATO to stop Turkey’s anti-Kurdish stance“.
The activity under the hashtag got another dimension in the afternoon after Turkish citizens with opposite views noticed it and started tweeting under it.
Turkey last week announced that it started military operations on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria and Iraqi positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which fought the Turkish state for over 30 years until a 2013 ceasefire was declared as the two sides were engaged in talks.
The US and the EU recognise PKK as a terrorist group.
The decision came after a suspected ISIL bombing that targeted activists in southeastern Turkey on July 20.
However, Kurdish forces in Syria and UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said Turkish tanks also shelled Kurdish-held villages in northern Syria, a claim denied by Turkey.
Idris Hassan, a Kurdish representative based in northern Syrian town of Kobane, told Al Jazeera that Turkish forces targeted posts in the village of Zur Maghar on Sunday night, wounding four fighters.
Quoting a statement by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (YPG), the Kurdish forces fighting ISIL in northern Syria, he said that just hours after the first attack, the Turkish military targeted a YPG vehicle, but there were no losses.
Turkish officials said that Turkey was not targeting YPG, but only ISIL and PKK, adding that they were investigating the claims.
“The PYD [the political wing of the YPG], along with others, remain outside the scope of the current military effort,” a Turkish military official was quoted as saying by news agencies.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Ankara, Osman Sert, media adviser to Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish prime minister, said: “As long as YPG or other groups fight ISIL and the Syrian regime, we have no problem with them.”
The hashtag took off rapidly from noon, with throngs of tweets in Turkish and English condemning the Turkish government for its offensive against Kurdish fighters.
Shortly after, Erdogan supporters as well as users who agree with the Turkish operations and condemn PKK attacks joined the picture, posting under the hashtag.
Others had the view that the air strikes were linked to the recent parliamentary polls that made the ruling Justice and the Development (AK) Party lose its single-party government. The efforts to form a coalition government in Turkey continues.
And some used harsh rhetoric against the other, underscoring the polarisation in Turkey over the issue.
At the end of the day, the hashtag became a platform for a war of words reflecting different political opinions in Turkish society.