A group of European activists protested Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq at a World War I memorial dedicated to victims of chemical warfare.
“It was here in Ypres that poison gas was first used in April 22, 1915,” the activists said in the demonstration in the Flemish city. “The German Imperial Army used chlorine gas. It is also a chlorine gas that is used against Kurdish fighters in the mountains of Northern Iraq by the Turkish army.”
The activists accused the European Union of “turning a blind eye to (Turkey’s) crimes” due to Turkey’s status as a NATO member and a key EU economic partner.
“We denounce the chemical war waged against the Kurdish people, and honour the memory of those who fell here,” they said in a video released on Thursday.
The activists’ banner read, “Stop Turkish chemical warfare in Kurdistan”.
The memorial site, Menin Gate, is dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the battle of Ypres Salient who don’t have graves. German troops used more than 150 tons of lethal chlorine gas against French divisions in Ypres, including in the Ypres Salient.
Turkey reportedly used chemical gases in the Zilan and Dersim massacres of 1930 and 1938 respectively, when the region’s Kurdish Alevi population was decimated. Dersim was renamed Tunceli after the massacre.
Turkey purchased some 20 tons of flammable and asphyxiating chemicals from Nazi Germany, according to Russia-affiliated Redfish.
Kurds later suffered chemical warfare at the hands of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who in 1988 used mustard gas and other lethal agents against the town of Halabja.