Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stirred controversy after telling a tearful young girl in military uniform that the country would honour her if she became a martyr. Mr Erdogan invited the girl on stage during a televised meeting with his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Saturday in the southern town of Kahramanmaras. In video posted online, the girl appears to be crying as she walks towards the podium Mr Erdogan kisses her on both cheeks and points out that she has the Turkish flag in her pocket. “If she is martyred, a flag will be put on her, God willing,” he says to the crowd. “She is ready for everything, isn’t she?” Mr Erdgoan then gives her a final kiss before letting her go. Those in the audience yelled “Chief! Take us to Afrin!,” in reference to an offensive launched by Turkey on January 20 in northwestern Syria. Ankara says its troops are in the region to fight against the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia. Mr Erdogan invited the girl on stage during a televised meeting with his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Saturday Credit: Anadolu Turkey says the YPG is connected to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. “Bringing a little child to the stage in front of thousands of people and blessing death is a big mistake. Children should never be in the shadow of weapons and should not be the face of wars,” said the deputy chair of the main opposition, CHP, Mr Veli Agbaba in a statement to The Daily Telegraph. Erdogan has previously said he wants to raise a “pious generation.” The curriculum in religious vocational schools this year introduced the concept of jihad as being about patriotism. The amount of students going to Islamic schools has increased sharply since 2012 and the government plans to double its funding for religious upper schools this year, according to Reuters. On Monday, Turkey sent special forces to the Afrin region after Ankara said a UN resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire throughout Syria does not apply to its offensive, which it calls “Operation Olive Branch.” “The entrance of the special forces is in preparation for the new battle that is approaching,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told local broadcaster NTV. Most political parties, including the main opposition, support the offensive. In a phone call on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned Erdogan that the U.N.-backed truce included the Afrin region.