Today, I talked politics with Steve Sweeney, political editor of the newspaper Morning Star, whose report on Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurds in Iraq was taken to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague yesterday. In defiance of its express purpose, the OPCW refused to accept the report – which only makes it more important to air the issues that it raises.
Sweeney has lived in Sulaymaniyah and has paid many visits to the affected area, where he was able to talk with a wide range of people. He had to be smuggled in, and claims to be the only Western journalist to have gone there. He describes interviews with villagers who not only had severe and lasting symptoms but were also living in fear of speaking out; and with doctors whose report was supressed by the authorities. He sets this in the context of the Turkish invasion into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where he can bear witness to the extent of the network of military bases and connecting roads, to the emptied villages, and to the terror imposed on the local population, who have been told that if they even go into their fields they will be regarded as PKK members and shot.
The editor describes Turkey’s history of alleged chemical attacks – alleged because they await official investigation – and some of the many other war crimes that Turkey has committed, including the bombing of Kurdish villages, attacks on Makhmour refugee camp and on a Yazidi hospital, and targeted assassinations of Yazidi politicians. He explains that Turkey has the support of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which dominates the government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and crushes all dissent, and also of Western powers, which are not only watching silently but are actively colluding. He describes how difficult this makes it for allegations of the use of chemical weapons to be taken up and investigated, as none of these powers want this to be discussed, and there is no neutral arbiter. And he observes that the OPCW has no excuse in the face of the evidence they now have, which even includes samples of earth, hair and clothing that he has brought back from the region.
Sweeney concludes that the only thing that will end this “silent genocide of the Kurdish people” is the building of an international mass movement supported by the mass organisations of the working class and other progressive forces. And he stresses, as two vital demands, the removal of the PKK’s terrorism listing (a listing that is used to justify attacks on Kurds), and solidarity with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is calling for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question and is consequently repressed by the Turkish Government.
You can read Steve Sweeney’s report here.