Yannis Vasilis Yaylalı, a former-commando-turned-peace-activist after his mandatory service at the Turkish military in the 1990s, said he had witnessed what he called war crimes during his time in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Yaylalı was a staunch Turkish nationalist when he was conscripted, and did not know about his Greek roots. As he was serving his mandatory time at the TSK, he was detained by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The former commando told Mezopotamya that he had witnessed several massacres, torture and war crimes at the time, leading to a transformation in his worldview.
Yaylalı said Turkey had been using chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters since the 1990s.
“Turkey used to drop chemical bombs on the area where female guerrillas showered,” he said. “There, many woman fighters died from a yellowish gas with a strong odour.”
Yaylalı spoke of historic instances of Turkish forces using prohibited chemicals, during the Dersim Massacre of 1938 and “in the 60s and mid-80s, against the Kurdish movement”.
“If Iraq forms a commission as promised and calls on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to fulfil its duty, this time Turkey will get a strong headache,” Yaylalı said.
The accusations Yaylalı posed have been voiced before, most recently by a Kurdish historian who said there was evidence of Turkey purchasing poisonous gas from Germany to use in the Dersim and Zilan massacres.
“The government wants to go to elections with a narrative that it entered no-go zones,” Yaylalı said. “Turkey will only withdraw if there is a loud reaction from inside. Or, if international organisations exert pressure.”
The former soldier said Turkey carried out more than 200 attacks in six months, which would be “impossible to do without informing NATO”.
The government seeks to isolate those voicing concerns over chemical use allegations, Yaylalı continued, pointing to the arrest of Turkish Medical Association chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı and 11 Kurdish journalists earlier in the week.
The People’s Defence Forces (HPG) had released video footage showing guerrillas who it said had been caught in a Turkish chemical weapon attack in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) on 18 October.