In the battle between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ongoing since 1980s, there have been many reports about various unlawful methods and controversial weapons mobilised by Turkey in what has been called ‘the dirty war’ against the Kurds.
Today, related debates are ongoing regarding Turkey’s operations since late-April in the Zap, Metina and Avashin regions of Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq governed by Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), targeting mainly the PKK controlled zones here.
In recent footage from Avashin reportedly recorded by a Kurdish fighter and sent to ANF was published by ANF with the title “The moments when toxic gases are being dropped are on camera”.
In the video a white gas cloud is shown spreading from the ground on a mountain slope, which is the Werxele slope, as reported by the woman speaking behind the camera.
As there is no fire or flames visible where the white gas rises, it raises the question once again of whether this gas is a chemical gas deployed by Turkish military.
“These are the war tunnels in the Werxele slopes of Avashin. Our friends are putting up a resistance here against all kinds of weapons and chemical gases,” says the woman heard speaking in the video.
“They do not let the enemy to get in the war tunels in Werxele,” she says, adding that Turkey “now uses toxic gases to be able to get into the war tunnels in Werxele.”
Roj News also reported that “the Turkish army has been suffering heavy casualties every day since the day it attacked the battle tunnels in Werxele and has not been able to get close to the guerrilla positions for nearly two months.”
Werxele has been a key area of conflict between Kurdish fighters and the Turkish army since June.
On 9 June, Peoples’ Defence Forces (HPG) issued a written statement, which was published by Yeni Özgür Politika, announcing that 10 Turkish soldiers had been killed in Werxele when they were trying to get into the war tunnels.
On 17 July, ANF reported that there were casualties on the Turkish side in Werxele as the deceased and wounded soldiers were taken away by Turkish military helicopters.
There are also reports of intense air activity in the region, escalating violence and continued bombardment from the military stations near the Iraqi border in southeastern Turkey.
Kurdish forces and monitoring human rights defenders have repeatedly been claiming that the Turkish military have carried out suspected gas attacks in various parts of Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Murat Karayılan, Executive Committee member of the PKK, in February shared information on a Sterk TV broadcast that when Kurdish fighters had completely encircled the Turkish military forces, the Turkish military had deployed chemical gas in order to enable them to escape from the area.
“We are open. An independent committee can visit the area and conduct an independent enquiry,” he said, inviting an independent international committee to conduct an urgent enquiry regarding their claims of Turkey’s use of chemical gases.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was also looking into the possible use by Turkey, of chemical weapons in the conflict in northeastern Syria, Insider reported in the October of 2019.
“We as KRC cannot confirm the use of chemical weapons yet, but we are working together with international partners to investigate this subject,” The Kurdish Red Crescent told the Rojava Information Centre.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in 2018 told Reuters that when Turkish forces and their Syrian insurgent allies hit a village in Afrin, medical sources reported that six people in the attack suffered breathing difficulties and dilated pupils, indicating a suspected gas attack.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu however told reporters at the Munich Security Conference, “It’s just a made up story. Turkey has never used any kind of chemical weapons,” strictly denying the claims of use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.
In March of 2010 photos showing the deceased bodies of eight Kurds who were believed to be fighters of the PKK were shown to a German human rights delegation and Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos as a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it was highly probable that the eight Kurds died “due to the use of chemical substances,” The German magazine Spiegel reported.