Nurcan Baysal expected her tweets and writing opposing ’s recent military intervention in and calling for peace would prompt an official reaction, maybe even an arrest.

But what the writer and activist didn’t anticipate was police storming into her house on Jan. 22 in the southeast city of Diyarbakir, terrifying her family. She was hauled away and held at a police station for two days before being released pending trial.

“Detention was not a surprise,” she told News. “I have been writing on human rights violations, crimes in the region for so long, so I was expecting it. But I didn’t expect them to break down my door. I tried to keep my children safe when I heard the noise.”

Turkish authorities have cracked down vehemently on those publicly opposed to an ongoing military intervention in ’s region — an example of the constriction of public dissent that occurs in countries during times of .

and allied n Arab fighters launched their offensive in the section of , since when at least 15 Turkish soldiers have been killed according to the pro-government Aksam newspaper. The 1,000-square-mile pocket of northwest is controlled by a Kurdish militia, the YPG, and a political party, the PYD, which independent analysts consider branches or outgrowths of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

“I didn’t expect them to break down my door”
 An outlawed separatist group, the PKK has been fighting the Ankara government for nearly four decades. , the United States, and the European Union list the PKK as a terrorist group, though many European countries tolerate its presence and Washington has allied with what the CIA calls its n branch in the fight against ISIS.

has accused opponents of the intervention of supporting terrorists. It has detained more than 400 people who have signed on to statements against the conflict or posted statements on social media, though most have been quickly released ahead of trial. In the most high-profile action, authorities on Jan. 30 began detaining the entire leadership board of the for issuing a statement opposing the conflict on public health grounds. All have been released pending trial.

“We have never heard these terrorist-lovers ever say yes to peace up to the present day,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Jan. 26, denouncing the doctors’ statement as disingenuous and harmful to at a time of . “Did we ever hear of the slightest statement aimed at those carrying out domestic terrorism?”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

During a wide-ranging meeting with international journalists in Istanbul on Saturday, Erdogan’s spokesperson and senior adviser Ibrahim Kalin insisted that welcomed constructive criticism of the effort so long as it didn’t serve as a propaganda tool for the enemy, or violate laws that bar the glorification of terrorism.

“If they were consistent in their opposition to under all circumstances, things would have been very different,” he said. “Whenever there is an issue that touches the YPG, PKK, PYD, they suddenly turn into these global, humanist anti- groups. Our soldiers are fighting for our country’s border and safety and the people of , and they’re spreading these kinds of views telling people that is dirty, is a health problem.”

Kalin said the doctors association was taking a “clearly political stance” that potentially harmed the morale of soldiers in harm’s way and couldn’t be ignored by the authorities. “How about those soldiers fighting on n territories?” he told journalists. “What kind of message do they get? They put their lives at risk so that we can be safe and free here now you’re saying things that directly or indirectly knowingly or unknowingly end up supporting the people they’re fighting.”

Opponents of the have countered that they have consistently spoken out against armed conflicts, including some in the region also vocally opposed by Erdogan and his allies. An article in the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet listed the times the spoke out against s, including against the US invasion of Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as bombings carried out in by Kurdish separatists.

“We will keep struggling for a country where not a single person is killed or injured,” the association reportedly declared after a June 2016 bombing claimed by a PKK offshoot which killed five police officers and six civilians in the Vezneciler district of Istanbul. “Our struggle is for a peaceful and democratic country.”

Syrian Kurds, Arabs, and Syriacs bussed in from across northern Syria demonstrate against the Turkish offensive, in the centre of the Kurdish city of Afrin on Feb. 6.

Delil Souleiman / AFP / Getty Images n Kurds, Arabs, and cs bussed in from across northern demonstrate against the Turkish offensive, in the centre of the Kurdish city of on Feb. 6.

 Most Turks appear to support the operation, which has been endorsed by three of ’s main parties, including the secular and nominally social democratic opposition People’s Republican Party. One Turkish social scientist said ’s move to stop n Kurds from establishing a self-rule enclave to the south of its border calms public anxieties about Western schemes to carve up the country that date back to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World I.

“The paranoia held by Turks is that foreigners are trying to divide up ,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she didn’t want to strain relations with the authorities. “Nationalism is on the rise and a lot of Turks are supporting the . “

Still, it remains impossible to know how many Turks oppose the operation, which is made all the more complicated by its entanglement in the Kurdish issue that has been a central theme of Turkish politics and identity for decades.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels watch as smoke billows in the village of al-Amud following artillery shelling as part of Turkey's operation Olive Branch against YPG militia in Afrin.

Saleh Abo Ghaloun / AFP / Getty Images Turkish-backed n rebels watch as smoke billows in the village of al-Amud following artillery shelling as part of ’s operation Olive Branch against YPG militia in .

Kurds, one of the world’s largest ethnolinguistic groups without a homeland, make up perhaps a fifth of ’s 80 million people but have been discriminated against since the founding of the country in 1923. A decades-old on-and-off between the PKK and the central government has left tens of thousands dead, millions displaced, and entire stretches of the Kurdish southeast devastated. At the height of the , when secular generals rather than Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted political party dominated the government, little public dissent was allowed.

“It was never easy to defend peace in , especially in Kurdistan,” said Baysal, who noted that she has also spoken out against terrorist attacks carried out by the PKK in . “But it was also not this difficult in the past. We used to organize meetings and bring representatives from both sides together even during the tough times. But today that is not possible. Today, defending peace is equal to terrorism. ‘Don’t say a word about peace. Applaud .’ That is what they are telling us.”

Baysal continues to speak out against the , both on social media and in her articles. Despite the crackdown, on Jan. 25, more than 170 signatories, including former ministers, writers, actors, and journalists, sent a letter to the members of parliament calling for an end to the military operation.

Nurcan Baysal

Nurcan Baysal

 “We know that an armed intervention on , which poses no threat to and is part of ’s territory, will not bring peace and security to our country and region, but rather bigger problems and more destruction and pain. It will create deep wounds in the hearts of our Kurdish citizens,” the letter said.

At a press conference on Wednesday, the Turkish Doctors Association elaborated in vivid detail on the reasons for its opposition to the intervention, which it insisted was rooted in concern for civilian life and public health infrastructure.

“In our days s are not fought as pitched battles,” said the statement, read aloud by a representative of the group in Ankara. “They take place in urban centres, settlements where children, women, elderly people, and civilians live. Civilians are killed and injured. Children succumb to nightmares. Water and sanitation systems are destroyed, Diseases spread, and farmlands are devastated, followed by hunger, famine, and migration. Health systems break apart and access to health services becomes impossible. Physical, biological and psychological effects of the weapons used bring along full disaster to civilians.

“It is for these reasons that doctors siding with human life and health in all circumstances define cases of armed conflict where all kinds of weapons are used as a preventable public health problem, and ask for urgent peace.”

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