A violent attack on a Turkish-Cypriot newspaper was done at the behest of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling for supporters to go after those criticizing his authorizing a military offensive in Syria, the editor there said.
Senor Levent said his publication was targeted because it tied the Syrian assault against a stronghold held by American-backed Kurdish militia to a burgeoning attempt to occupy that territory.
A mob smashed window panes and hurled eggs and stones as the newspaper’s office but Levent said he would not be silenced even though Erdogan, in the wake of a failed 2016 coup attempt, has assumed near dictatorial powers and shut down anti-government newspapers in Turkey.
A headline in Afrika’s Sunday edition likened Turkey’s action to its military “occupation” of Cyprus’ north, where Turkey has kept 35,000 troops since an unlawful 1974 invasion which saw the occupation of the northern third of the island.
Talks to reunify Cyprus have gone nowhere for decades and collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana after Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades refused to accept demands from Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Erdogan for Turkey to keep an army on the island and for the right to militarily intervene when it wants.
The newspaper linked the Syrian offensive to the Turkish invasion, infuriating Erdogan, who accepts no criticism and shuts down dissension.
Levent’s assistant, Cinel Husseyin, said some protesters of trying to storm the office and said police did little to stop them.
“Erdogan sent the demonstrators. It was a threat made against us,” Levent told The Associated Press through Husseyin, who acted as an interpreter. “We will continue telling the truth and the newspaper will circulate tomorrow.”
Erdogan didn’t immediately address the accusations made by Levent.
According to the Turkish Presidency’s website, Erdogan had earlier called Afrika “a cheap and nasty newspaper” that ran an “impertinent” headline and invited Turkish Cypriots to “give the necessary response to this.”
Cyprus Journalists’ Union condemned the attack, saying in a statement that journalists aren’t “servants to power no matter how powerful or absolute that power is.”
Erdogan won’t tolerate criticism and asked Germany to prosecute a TV comic who mocked him and reports said Greek police are seeking to prosecute protesters against his visit to northern Greece to visit Muslims there.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)