In a podcast interview for Medya News, Nikolaj Villumsen, a Danish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), highlighted the concerns that have been raised by the Kurdish Friendship Group in the European Parliament over Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Villumsen is a Danish politician who was elected as an MEP in 2019 as part of the Left-Green Alliance group, where he serves as one of its four co-chairs. He is also a member of the Committee of Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee of Constitutional Affairs.
Villumsen is also a co-chair of the Kurdish Friendship Group in the European Parliament. The Kurdish Friendship Group was established in September 2019 in the European Parliament in Strasbourg by around a dozen MEPs from a variety of political groups, who aimed to provide a forum for support and discussion of issues of concern relating to the Kurdish people.
On 15 October, 109 intellectuals from Kurdistan and Iraq signed a joint letter addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), demanding an urgent field investigation into Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons in northern Iraq/Iraqi Kurdistan in its ongoing operations targeting Kurdish fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
OPCW is a Nobel Prize-winning organisation that employs over 500 people and is charged with regulating, monitoring and stopping the use of chemical weapons worldwide: 193 states have signed up to the OPCW’s Chemical Weapons Convention, including Turkey. The OPCW’s mission, as stated on it’s website, is “to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention to achieve our vision of a world free of chemical weapons and the threat of their use, and in which chemistry is used for peace, progress, and prosperity.”
Signed in 1993, the world’s most sweeping treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, aimed at eliminating chemical weapons, came into effect. In addition to establishing the Hague-based OPCW, the treaty set up a way for its 193 members to raise suspicions and accusations, and a way to investigate or verify them, using inspectors.
In a recent press release from the Kurdish Friendship Group of the European Parliament, they stated that they supported the call of the 109 intellectuals to the OPCW and UN to launch an investigation into Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Iraqi Kurdistan, and asked that “the international authorities act quickly and send a delegation to investigate.”
The statement signed by the Kurdish Friendship Group co-chairs also noted that “Turkey’s policy of aggression against the Kurdish territories of Syria (Rojava) and Iraq is increasingly brutal and systematically violates international law.
“Without vigorous and urgent intervention, Turkey would be encouraged in its practices that endanger peace in this part of the world.”
I began by asking Nikolaj Villumsen about the Kurdish Friendship Group in the European Parliament and then asked him why he was supporting the call for an independent investigation by the OPCW.
Villumsen responded by saying that the use of chemical weapons was totally unacceptable and pointed to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and by Saddam Hussain. He said that alarm bells should be rung if there is a fear or suspicion that chemical weapons are being used and that there needs to be a firm international response and people are needed on the ground to investigate what is going on in the region.
That was why, he explained, the Kurdish Friendship Group in the European Parliament has made this call and submitted questions to the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs minister Josep Borrell in order for the European Commission to also take action.
He accused the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commission’s response as hypocritical and insincere as it had said that there were no confirmations of such attacks, but the fact was that the Kurdish Friendship Group was demanding an independent investigation of the allegations which the Foreign Affairs Commission seemed to cynically ignore.
When asked about the recent statement of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), whose co-chair Zeynep Murad recently stated that European countries preferred to remain silent regarding the claims that Turkey deployed chemical warfare in Iraqi Kurdistan because they sold weapons to Turkey and also had trade deals that they did not want jeopardised, Villumsen noted the hypocrisy of several governments who called for investigations of alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime but remained silent when it came to the same calls for investigations of chemical weapons attacks by the Erdoğan regime.
Villumsen expressed his full solidarity with all Kurds coming under attack from Turkey’s President Erdoğan and thanked those who have been campaigning to raise awareness and warnings of Turkey’s alleged chemical weapons attacks.
As he pointed out, it is an issue for the whole world, not just the Kurds, if violations are being carried out against international treaties. Any evidence that is gathered can be used to not only condemn but also inflict consequences (if the claims are confirmed) for those countries such as Turkey who are accused of chemical weapons use.
In his conclusions, Villumsen stated that, if we are to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East, the EU needs to be able to criticise Erdoğan and Turkey when there are reasons to do so. We need to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves if the standards we represent – human rights, the rule of law, etc – are values we really hold dear. If they are, then we should not just talk about them but act when we need to do so, he said.