Turkey's interior minister boasted about the deaths of Turkish forces during Syria visit

Turkey's Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu boasted about the deaths of Turkish service members in Syria by claiming the nation owes its existence to "coffins" wrapped in the Turkish flag, Duvar English reported on Wednesday. 

During a visit to Turkish-occupied northern Syria, Soylu paid a visit to special operation police units in the area when he made his coffins remark. Turkish daily Birgün quoted the minister making his "coffins" remark..

“May God bless you. Let God give you long life so that you have white hair, white bears, and cherish your grandchildren...Being a nation is not an easy job. You become a nation by carrying coffins bearing crescent and star [referring to Turkish flag], by keeping a solid line together during Friday prayers,” Soylu was quoted as saying by daily Birgün on July 20.

As part of his visit, Soylu visited shopkeepers in the area and headed to the town of Azaz, where the minister again addressed Turkish police forces. He also took the time to inspect the site of the Shifa Hospital that Ankara claims was targeted by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) last month, according to the interior ministry's Twitter account.

Soylu's remarks were met with furor from some members of the Turkish opposition. Main opposition Republican People's Party Party (CHP) lawmaker Mehmet Bekaroğlu retorted that Turkey already proved itself as a nation through victories in the First World War at Gallipoli and later in the Turkish War of Independence. 

 “Do you hear yourself? We have already so many times become a nation by giving our children in Gallipoli [Çanakkale], Sakarya, Afyon Kocatepe and several other wars,” he wrote on Twitter.

Turkey seized control over swaths of northern Syria in three offensives between 2016 and 2019 in an effort to drive Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) away from their border. Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the PKK and has vowed in the past to continue operations as needed against the group. 

Since Turkey seized control of Afrin and neighbouring cantons, it has been accused of executing an ethnic cleansing campaign by international organisations after thousands of Kurds were forced to leave their homes in favour of Syrian Arab refugees residing in Turkey.