“Look, look, look, what is there? Girl, what are you doing there?” he called out. She held her salute, but her face began to crumple in anxiety as she was lifted out of the crowd to meet the president. “Here are our maroon berets. Look, we have our own maroon berets,” Mr. Erdogan said as she crossed the stage.
Mr. Erdogan kissed her on both cheeks but by then she was in tears.
“But maroon berets don’t cry,” the president said as he checked the rank of her uniform. “Yes, lieutenant colonel, military police special forces. Maroon beret. God willed it.”
“Her Turkish flag is in her pocket. If she becomes a martyr, God willing, she will be wrapped with it. She is ready for everything, aren’t you?” he said, sending her back to the crowd.
Amid the applause, supporters in the audience chanted: “Chief, take us to Afrin,” news agencies reported. Mr. Erdogan thanked the volunteers but said the Turkish Army had professional soldiers to do the job.
Turkey has a longstanding culture of nationalist militarism, with popular slogans such as “Every Turk born a soldier.” Since the Afrin operation began last month, the government has mounted a national campaign in support of the war, with billboards and banners praising the armed forces and saluting those fallen in battle, who are accorded the honor of martyrs.
Mr. Erdogan recently made an alliance with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party to bolster his chances for coming elections and has used the military campaign to improve his stance with nationalists.
He makes public speeches every day and sometimes several times a day, peppering his speeches with nationalist and anti-Western jibes as well as poetry and religious sayings, conjuring glories of Turkish history. He vows to protect Turkey’s borders and to fight terrorism, and rallies popular support for the war, listing the number of enemies killed and commending the nation’s martyrs.
Mr. Erdogan’s remarks to the girl on Saturday drew criticism from some on social media, who felt that the talk of martyrdom was inappropriate for a child so young. “Oh my God, I am shocked. Could Erdogan have said the same thing for his grandchild?” one user wrote on Twitter.
Another Twitter user, referring to reports that Mr. Erdogan’s own family members avoided military service, shared pictures of his two sons and son-in-law, asking: “Are those ready?”