Digging large numbers of graves in graveyards is routine work for local governments, said the municipality of Turkey’s Gaziantep province on Saturday, following a social media fury over a viral video that showed empty graves which were recently dug in a burial yard spared for soldiers killed in combat.
The municipality of the south-eastern province on the Syrian border said the claims on social media about mass graves prepared in what is called “martyrs’ cemetery” were unfounded and created to incite panic.
“Share this video. I want answers from the authorities about that,” a middle-aged man says in the video that has been widely shared. “As you can see countless graves have been dug in the martyrs’ cemetery,” he continues, while showing the graves and the municipality workers working in the cemetery.
“They are going to bury our children here,” says the man, who was arrested after the municipality’s statement. “They are going to martyr our children,” he adds.
“Haven’t you finished with profiting from shedding the blood of our children,” asks the man, demanding from authorities once more to explain why so many graves are being prepared.
The municipality said graves should be prepared beforehand in provinces with high populations and also before winter arrives. The municipality added that according to regulations on disaster management, the local government is also obliged to make graveyards ready.
The man in the video has a long list of criminal records, a local news site claimed on Saturday. Meanwhile, news site ODA TV shared an old video of the same man voicing his support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The video sparked a protest on social media, as the recent statements of Turkey’s top officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have raised the expectation for a possible military incursion into northern Syria.
Turkey has recently increased shelling targets in Kurdish-controlled territories in northeast Syria, which Ankara sees as a threat to its national security.
Turkey has also been continuing a military campaign in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) allegedly to combat fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Some opposition nationalist outlets in recent months have pointed out the increasing number of Turkish casualties in that operation.
Murat Karayılan, a senior PKK commander, said in a speech last month that the Kurdish fighters had inflicted high casualties on the Turkish military, forcing the Turkish government to hide the casualties.