Kurdish activist Xoşnav Ata concluded a year-long protest on Friday with a press conference in front of the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague, Netherlands. Ata emphasised that the struggle against Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish guerrillas would persist.
The protest, which began on 5 August 2022 with the demand for an independent investigation into the allegations, marked its 359th day with Ata reflecting on the aspirations for dialogue and the call for an investigation that went unanswered.
At the heart of Ata’s protest were the losses of two young female relatives who were killed in operations targeting Kurdish fighters carried out by the Turkish forces.
Addressing the gathered media, Ata lamented that it had been several years since the first images and footage of charred bodies and casualties due to gas exposure had surfaced, exposing the alleged war crimes committed by the Turkish armed forces. Ata firmly believes that the OPCW has a duty to initiate an investigation given the abundance of evidence, including hundreds of witness testimonies and thousands of different pieces of evidence.
Adding weight to Ata’s claims, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning independent organisation, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had supported the need for a comprehensive inquiry through its reports.
However, the OPCW maintained that it could only conduct an investigation into the use of chemical weapons if requested by a member state of the United Nations. Ata criticised this stance, arguing that it implied more than 40 million Kurds were denied protection against chemical weapons due to their statelessness.
“Today, I announce the end of my year-long protest. But this does not mean an end to my efforts,” declared Ata, emphasising that the OPCW’s silence not only violated the Kurdish people’s right to protection against chemical weapons but also compromised the values and achievements of European societies.
Representatives from various Kurdish institutions also attended the concluding statement at the OPCW headquarters. Among them were Zübeyir Aydar, a member of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), and Abdulkerim Ömer, the European Representative of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
Aydar also addressed the crowd, saying, “We want to make our voices heard to the entire world. The OPCW is here, representatives from all countries are here. The OPCW was established to prevent the use of chemical weapons. Yet today, chemical weapons are being used against us. We will continue these actions to the end. Just as Saddam was brought before the court, we will bring [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and his associates to face justice. We are organised, and we have the potential. Those who commit injustice will be brought to justice. Our fight against injustice and chemical weapons will continue until the end.”