There is enough evidence to show Turkey using chemicals in its cross-border operations in northern Iraq, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) Switzerland Chairman Dr Peppe Savary told Mezopotamya Agency.
“We have enough evidence to say this, but we cannot officially prove it because we have not been allowed to enter the area,” Savary said.
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been accusing Turkey of using chemical weapons and poisonous gases against its forces since late 1990s. While fresh accusations emerged last year, the group had also posed the accusations in 1999, in Turkey’s southeastern border province Şırnak (Şirnêx), and in 2009 in the neighbouring Hakkari (Colemêrg) province.
In 2019, there were claims of chemical use in the Ras al-Ayn (Serêkaniyê) countryside in Syria, where many civilians lost their lives. Most recent accusations pertain to Turkey’s military operations in the Zap, Metîna and Avaşîn regions in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), beginning in April 2022 that reportedly continue to date.
PKK’s armed wing, the People’s Defence Centre (HPG), announced the death of 17 HPG and Free Women’s Units (YJA-Star) members due to chemical weapon usage in August, September, and October of 2022. Videos the group released show two HPG members in convulsions and a state of delirium, after what they said was exposure to chemical weapons. The IPPNW held a visit to the region to investigate.
Savary was part of the IPPNW delegation, together with chemical weapons expert Hans Blix. However, the investigation remained limited in scope.
“We were prevented from entering the area by the governor of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), but we managed to speak with the family of a child who suffered burns due to exposure to chemicals,” Savary said. “The materials used by the Turkish army are internationally recognised as chemical weapons.”
Savary also expressed frustration with the lack of action from the international community, saying that they cannot officially prove the use of chemical weapons because there is no state to which they can submit their findings. “States are not taking action because they fear Turkey, which has a powerful army, and because they consider the issue of refugees as leverage in negotiations with the European Union,” he added.
In October 2022, the IPPNW published a report calling for an independent investigation into the accusations. However limited, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate watchdog’s findings still constituted evidence supporting chemical use. Among the evidence were gas masks and containers of chemicals, including hydrochloric acid and bleach, chemicals used during World War I to produce weaponised chlorine gas. There is a video reportedly showing Turkish soldiers using an improvised device to discharge gas into a cave, presumably where PKK militants were hiding.