President brings little girl to tears
A YOUNG girl who was summoned from the audience at a rally led by the Turkish president has broken down in tears as the leader told her she would be honoured if killed in combat.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attracted backlash over the televised speech in which he exhorted Turks to support their soldiers in Syria to battle the Kurds.
Mr Erdogan spotted the little girl wearing a maroon beret and making a soldier's salute when he called her to the stage.
"Look, look, look, what is there? Girl, what are you doing there?" he said over the microphone.
She was already crying when he summoned her to his side in front of thousands of people in the arena. The girl had been attending the provincial congress of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party in a military-style uniform on Saturday, according to Turkish news agencies.
Mr Erdogan kissed the girl on the cheeks and held her face in his hands but she continued to cry and appeared increasingly distressed.
"Look what you see here! Girl, what are you doing here? We have our maroon berets here, but maroon berets never cry," he told her, referring to the uniforms of the Turkish Special Operations Forces.
"Her Turkish flag is in her pocket. If she becomes a martyr, God willing, she will be wrapped with it," he said as the girl stood beside him with tears streaming down her face.
"She is ready for everything, aren't you?"
His supporters in the crowd erupted with cheers.
"Chief, take us to Afrin," they chanted.
But the president's comments were criticised by social media users who labelled them "inappropriate".
Kurdish forces have been under attack in the northern region of Afrin from neighbouring Turkey since January 20.
The Turkishb government has mounted a national campaign in support of the war, with billboards and banners praising the armed forces and saluting those fallen in battle, who are accorded the honour of martyrs.
Turkey has warned it did not consider that the UN ceasefire resolution, whose wording excludes operations against terror groups and goes beyond Eastern Ghouta, should affect its offensive on Afrin.