Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last weekend raised eyebrows when he called a visibly emotional girl, 6, onstage during a military rally and talked about the possibility of her becoming a martyr.
The New York Times reported Monday that Amine Tiras, a first grader and cadet, was in the crowd during the Saturday event. At some point Erdogan called on Tiras and she was “lifted into the air” and sent towards him.
The video clip of the interaction went viral and shows Tiras crying and attempting to compose herself. The Times said Erdogan told her that she would be honored if she was ever killed in battle.
He pointed to a Turkish flag folded in her pocket, the report said.
“If she becomes a martyr, God willing, she will be wrapped with it. She is ready for everything, aren’t you?” he asked.
The Times reported that Turkey has slogans like, “Every Turk born a soldier,” but some on social media took issue with his interaction with the girl.
“Oh my God, I am shocked,” one Twitter user posted, according to the paper. “Could Erdogan have said the same thing for his grandchild?”
Turkey has been attacking the Kurds in northern Syria for the past several weeks, despite American calls for restraint and complaints that the fighting distracts from the campaign to defeat ISIS.
The standoff has fueled increasingly angry rhetoric, including a warning from Erdogan that Turkey's foes may feel "the Ottoman slap," a reference to the Ottoman Empire's onetime might.
The Associated Press contributed to this report