Turkish Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar, who went to Hakkari on Wednesday to inspect the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TAF) border troops, denied that Turkish security forces used chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in cross-border operations in an interview with HaberTürk on Thursday.
Calls for an investigation into Turkey’s alleged chemical attacks increased after video footage which shows a group of soldiers at the mouth of a cave with a device that the People’s Defence Forces (HPG) says is being used to deliver chemical weapons into the cave was released by the HPG on 18 September.
Akar said that various international organisations have information on the military weapons of several states. “It is impossible for us to hide the fact that we have chemical weapons,” he said.
On the other hand, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) recently published a video reminding viewers that “An investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons can only be triggered at the request of an OPCW Member State.”
Stating that these allegations were not brought to light for the first time, Akar said, “We have really been in favour of international law throughout our history of combating terrorism. We really do our best not to harm any innocent people.”
However, according to chemical and biological weapons expert Jan Van Aken of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Akar had already admitted to TAF’s use of prohibited chemicals in military operations in a speech on February 2021 when he said the TAF “only uses tear gas” in the operation in Iraq’s Mount Gara.
“Probably he did not know, but using tear gas in a military operation is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Van Aken said.
As Akar stated, the allegation that TAF used chemical weapons against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas in its cross-border military operations is not new. According to reports more than a year before the last footage, Turkey was again accused of using chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters.
The HPG commander Murat Karayılan said on Wednesday that there had been no exaggerations in his side’s allegations of Turkish chemical weapons use and called on international bodies to launch a proper investigation in the field.
In the interview, Karayılan also mentioned the gas masks seized by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on April. “Those masks were not purchased by the guerrilla. They were the masks that were bought and sent via a campaign carried out by European democratic and human rights, that is, they do not want people to die by chemicals,” he explained.
The RiseUp4Rojava platform had set up a donation drive to buy gas masks for Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, where reports say Turkish forces have employed the use of chemical weapons hundreds of times in September 2022.
As calls for independent international investigations grow, no organisation has yet to launch any efforts to investigate.
Akar also stated that Turkey has filed criminal and compensation lawsuits against those who made the allegations.
Turkey’s top human rights advocate, the chair of the Turkish Medical Association (TBB) Şebnem Korur Fincancı was arrested on 26 October over her comments of allegations of Turkey’s use of chemical weapons.