Turkey’s President Glorifies Child Martyrdom

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Turkish President Erdogan with the child on stage
Turkish President Erdogan with the child on stage (Photo: Video screenshot)

In a speech criticized as child abuse and the glorification of child martyrdom, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said to a crying six-year-old girl dressed in military fatigues, “If she’s martyred, they’ll lay a flag on her, God willing.”

Erdogan was speaking at a televised congress of his Islamist AK party (see video below). He pulled the stunned girl onto the stage to make the remarks, while his supporters yelled, “Chief! Take us to Afrin!”

Afrin is the site of Turkey’s recent incursion into Syria. The Turks  have been mercilessly attacking the Kurds who, after routing ISIS in the region, control the oil-rich territory.

When Erdogan saw the girl was sobbing, he said, “Look what you see here! Girl, what are you doing here? We have our maroon berets here, but maroon berets never cry.”

He then continued, saying, “She has a Turkish flag in her pocket too…If she’s martyred, they’ll lay a flag on her, God willing. She is ready for everything, isn’t she?”

The girl, whom Erdogan appeared to have chosen randomly from the audience, answers, “Yes.”

Reporting on the story, the BBC’s Turkish reporter Onur Erem notes, “It is not the first time that Mr. Erdogan’s comments on martyrdom have caused controversy in Turkey, where every soldier or police officer killed on duty is considered a ‘martyr.’

“Mr. Erdogan’s opponents criticize him for using the funerals of dead soldiers and children for highly politicized speeches. They also say his own sons evaded military service, but his supporters do not seem to be influenced.”

The speech caused a storm of condemnation on Twitter as well. One comment read, “It’s a shame, it’s very bad. She’s just a child, you don’t wish her dead and you don’t say ‘God willing’ for that!”



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