By Dildar Baykan
Turkey on Tuesday blasted an international Red Cross official questioning the credibility of the Turkish Red Crescent’s extensive humanitarian aid work in Afrin, northwestern Syria.
Hami Aksoy, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, “condemned” the statement by Peter Maurer, chairman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in which he claimed the credibility of the Turkish Red Crescent among Syrian Kurds “is nearly zero."
The Turkish Red Crescent’s humanitarian aid operations are carried out “on a global scale regardless of people's language, religion, nationality, or geographical background,” Aksoy said.
The Turkish Red Crescent's humanitarian work has been praised "as exemplary by the United Nations and the international community since the beginning of the Syrian crisis,” he added.
Blasting the "unacceptable" ICRC statement as being “divorced from the truth,” Aksoy stressed that the ICRC is one of the organizations that should be able to best appreciate “the unprecedented sacrifice and determination” of the Turkish Red Crescent."
He criticized such a statement being directed at the Red Crescent of a country “that is home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds within its borders.”
Maurer’s claims were published by various international press agencies.
Last November, Kerem Kinik, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent, was elected vice president responsible for the European region of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Handing out aid in Afrin
The Turkish Red Crescent sent nearly 7,000 truckloads of humanitarian aid to Syria in 2017 alone, according to Hakan Sari, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent’s Border Assistance, touting its work since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
On Monday, working with Turkey's disaster management agency, the Turkish Red Crescent distributed hot meals to nearly 1,000 civilians in areas of Afrin recently liberated during Turkey's counter-terrorist Operation Olive Branch, according to Ibrahim Altan, head of the Turkish Red Crescent Society.
Humanitarian teams also distributed food aid packages to civilians -- mainly women and children -- who expressed their gratitude to the Turkish teams.
The Red Crescent has begun delivering hot meals, personal care products, food parcels, and blankets in liberated areas in Syria's Afrin region.
"Apart from the city center in Afrin, our teams are continuously delivering aid in settlements near the Turkish provinces of Kilis and Hatay and settlements cleared of terrorists," Altan said on Tuesday.
"The Turkish Red Crescent always stands by the oppressed and people who are in need," he said.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch aims to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.
*Dilan Pamuk contributed to this story in Ankara