Region's children shouldn’t serve as political props

For leaders to glorify children’s “martyrdom” is a step too far.
Sunday 04/03/2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kisses Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform, as he speaks to his ruling party members in Kahramanmaras, on February 24. (AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kisses Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform, as he speaks to ruling party members in Kahramanmaras, on February 24. (AP)

There is an unfortunate tradition in the Middle East of drafting children to serve as extras at political and military rallies.

Children celebrating adult belligerence are often seen on the streets of Beirut, Baghdad, Sana’a and other regional capitals.

The most recent example of using children as political props came when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put a 6-year-old girl on stage, a few days ago, to illustrate his patriotic narrative during a ruling party meeting in the city of Kahramanmaras.

His words to the child predictably provoked a wave of international criticism.

“Her Turkish flag is in her pocket,” Erdogan said of the weeping girl. “If she becomes a martyr, God willing, she will be wrapped with it. She is ready for everything, aren’t you?”

Such displays of muscular nationalism have become frequent since Turkey began its military incursion into the Kurdish-controlled Syrian enclave of Afrin but the use of a child is reprehensible.

Children are already victims of the conflicts that beset the region.

For leaders to glorify children’s “martyrdom” is a step too far.

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