A Kurdish man has started a solo demonstration outside the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.
Xwaşnav Ata intends to hold a solo vigil outside the OPCW every day until the global watchdog holds a proper investigation into Turkey’s alleged chemical weapons use against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq, he told reporters.
Ata lost two nieces, PKK guerrillas in clashes with Turkey, within six months, in December 2021 and May 2022. The People’s Defence Forces (HPG), the military wing of the PKK, announced the discovery of traces of chemical weapons in the May incident, according to ANF.
“The OPCW must investigate this. There are claims that my nieces were killed by chemical weapons,” Ata said. “As a family we want the OPCW to tell us why our children were killed with chemical weapons. We cannot accept that our young people are being killed in this immoral, unconscionable way with chemicals.”
“Turkey joined the OPCW in 1997, saying it would not use chemical weapons. If it is true that Turkey is using chemical weapons, we ask the European and global public to stand against it,” Ata said.
The OPCW started procedures for an investigation into earlier allegations, to to determine whether Turkey used white phosphorus against Syrian Kurdish forces but they abandoned it in November 2019, saying the case fell outside their remit, the British newspaper The Times reported at the time.
In the first week of August, the Committee against the Use of Chemical Weapons in South Kurdistan issued a report on findings related to Turkey’s activities.
Turkey’s military Operation “Claw-Lock” against Iraqi Kurdistan “led to hundreds of cases of war crimes, including the intensive use of chemical weapons”, the committee said. “Repeated accusations of Kurdish representatives regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Turkish army have not yet led to the necessary investigations of international organizations and institutions such as the OPCW.”
The committee cited the HPG as reporting 367 chemical weapon attacks in 2021, which killed some 40 guerrillas in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Three civilians in the Duhok region were taken to a hospital in Zakho (Zaxo) in September 2021 with vomiting and severe chemical burns following a Turkish shelling of the area, the committee said.
In 2022, the HPG has reported more than 1,300 chemical weapons attacks since the Turkish armed forces launched Operation Claw-Lock in April, and 14 casualties due to chemical exposure since the year began.
The HPG reported identifying a nerve gas, a suffocating agent, and a paralytic in traces left behind after Turkish strikes. It also reports the use of tear gas in caves and enclosed mountain tunnels.
Turkey has admitted to using only the tear gas, the committee said, citing Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.
Allegations of chemical use made it to a total of 121 news articles from Turkey, Israel, Germany, Britain, Greece, Iraq and the United States, according to the report.
The committee also cites video evidence released by the HPG. In one video, Turkish soldiers appear to be setting up a pump system and pushing a hose into a tunnel. They call on the international community to focus on the allegations as it did for allegations against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, warning against “complicity in Turkey’s war crimes”.