A group of international activists launched a campaign, entitled “Your Silence Kills”, to contribute to efforts towards an investigation into claims that Turkey has been using chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters in its military operations.
The campaign “provides information to the international public and media about the war crimes committed by Turkey. Its aim is to create the foundation for the responsive action that must follow to prevent further violations of human dignity”, they said.
According to the group, their report only cites other published work, without making fresh claims.
“Since Spring 2021, there has been a rising number of reports of alleged attacks with chemical warfare agents: mustard gas, tabun, chlorine gas (also known as “green cross”), tear gas and uzz15/BZ,” the campaigners said, referencing the People’s Defence Forces’ (HPG) allegations against Turkey.
The HPG has detailed alleged cases of its fighters affected by various agents, some of which are included in the campaign report. The military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has also reported 323 cases of military use of internationally outlawed weapons in 2021, and 2,837 case between April and November 2022.
Turkey has “a long history of both breaking international law and not caring about fundamental human rights”, the group said. The EU, NATO and UN are “directly responsible for the Turkish actions regarding these topics”, they added.
While many have called on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to launch an investigation, one of the reasons may be that Turkey paid €30,000 ahead of an aerial campaign against Syria’s Ras al Ayn (Serekaniye).
In October 2019, when OPCW reportedly accepted tens of thousands of euros ahead of a Turkish chemical attack, local hospitals in Syria’s Ras al Ayn (Serekaniye) publicised photos of children reportedly affected by white phosphorus used on the civilian population.
The substance is allowed to be used in combat situations to mark a target or create a smokescreen, but not indiscriminately or as an incendiary agent against civilians.
“It is time for the Turkish regime to face serious consequences. However, as long as no state demands investigations by either the OPCW or the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, they will not be able to clarify the situation due to the mechanisms of their institutions,” the group said.
Both the OPCW and the United Nations can only launch investigations if a member state appeals for one. In either, no such appeal has been filed to date, including by the central government in Iraq, on whose soil Turkey has allegedly used chemicals most frequently.
“For a stateless people like the Kurds it is very hard to be recognized, to be heard, or to have any kind of influence on the decision-making process in international institutions,” the campaigners said. “There is the need for an international investigation on the named allegations, but any serious attempt seems to be continuously blocked from the beginning.”