writes Meral Çiçek for Yeni Özgür Politika.n order to win approval to use chemicals against the riot centred in Suleymaniyah, Churchill worked hard to create a perception that Kurdish rebels and Arab tribes were “uncivilised”; just as liberation movements today are criminalised with the label of “terrorism”,
After the first world war, as the dominant power of the era, Britain faced popular uprisings in its colonies.
Riots broke out one after another both in Britain’s “official” colonies in South Asia and Africa, and also in the Middle East.
Then Secretary of State for War, it was later that Churchill was appointed Prime Minister, succeeding Neville Chamberlain during the second world war, going on to become one of Britain’s most significant politicians.
He was also one of those who played a critical role from the 1940s on, in the integration of Turkey into the western strategic system of interests.
This British statesman, with his truly interesting biography, had another characteristic, which is not often discussed: His advocacy of “aerial policing” and chemical warfare.
Shortly after the end of the first world war, when Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for Air and War in 1919, he personally ordered the bombing campaign in Suleymaniyah to quell the revolt led by Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji (Şêx Mehmûdê Berzencî).
This has been recorded in history as the first-ever aerial bombardment aimed at quelling a revolt.
They then targeted the anti-colonialist autonomy and guerilla resistance led by Sayid Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, a Somali religious and military leader of the Dervish movement, who called for independence from the British and Italian colonies in the Somali peninsula.
Churchill, who was unable to obtain the desired end to the aerial campain against the rebels in Bashure [southern] Kurdistan and Iraq, decided that the the way to defeat the rebels was by using poison gas.
He suggested the use of mustard gas in order to punish the “uncivilised tribes” without causing them serious injury.
Let us present Churchill’s mindset, based on “educating” the Kurdish and Arabic peoples who resisted colonialism, in his own words:
“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.”
Churchill saw chemical warfare as a modern war practice of western science and was seeking to break the taboo which had been brought about by the intense deployment of chemicals in the first world war.
Churchill’s execution of a sustained chemical attack on northern Russia was celebrated as a “great success” against the Bolsheviks.
In order to win approval to use chemicals against the riot centred in Suleymaniyah, Churchill worked hard to create a perception that Kurdish rebels and Arab tribes were “uncivilised”; just as liberation movements today are criminalised with the label of “terrorism”.
Despite his attempts, Churchill was unable to get approval to poison the Iraqi Arabs and the Kurds, whom he bombed.
However, this does not change the fact that it was the British and the ruling western system who were the originators of the idea of bombing riots into submission with chemicals.
A century has passed since the events told of in this article, yet it is useful for us to keep this history also in mind when considering the silence of some of the relevant western institutions and organisations regarding Turkey’s chemical attacks on the freedom guerilla in southern Kurdistan.