Karayilan: Why is an independent investigation being prevented?

HPG commander Murat Karayilan asks for forgiveness from the relatives of the chemical weapons victims whose death throes were released on video, saying: "The Turkish state wants results before winter sets in."

Murat Karayilan, commander of the Central Headquarters of the People's Defence Forces (HPG), spoke to ANF on the use of prohibited combat equipment by the Turkish army in the guerrilla-held Medya Defense Zones in Southern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq). In the interview conducted by Deniz Kendal, Karayilan addressed the following issues, among others:


Commenting on the release of the disturbing video footage of the dying guerrilla fighters Baz Mordem (Mehmet Can Evren) and Helbest Koçerîn (Kevser Ete), Karayilan said: "I would like to apologise to all patriotic people and especially to the mothers and families of the martyrs for releasing the footage of Heval (Comrade) Baz and Hevala Helbest. I assume that the families and our people understand that we had to do this so that the reality here on the ground can be seen in a concise way."

The video caused an outcry among the Kurdish people, and there were also strong reactions from democratic circles. The Turkish state immediately denied having or using chemical weapons. In order to nip the discussion in the bud, journalists were arrested in Turkey. The arrest of the prominent forensic scientist Şebnem Korur Fincancı triggered international criticism, and the World Medical Association and other organisations joined the call of the President of the Medical Association for an independent investigation into the allegations.


Karayilan stated: "Our people, our friends, human rights organisations and all independent circles that have a conscience can be completely sure of one thing: The information we publish on the use of banned bombs and chemical weapons by the Turkish armed forces in Southern Kurdistan does not contain any exaggeration or error. It is verified information. We have been reporting continuously on this side of the war since the attack on Gare in February 2021. The Turkish state has been silent about this for the past two years and has not reacted at all. Only last year [Defence Minister] Hulusi Akar made a statement and said: 'We do not use chemical weapons, only pepper gas.' However, pepper gas is also a chemical agent and, according to the law of war, it is forbidden in military conflicts and especially in closed spaces. The Turkish state has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and pledged not to use such weapons. Yet it uses not only pepper gas, but various lethal agents with different effects on people. It wants to prevent any public debate about this.

The last time concrete evidence was presented, the Turkish state claimed on the same day, without any investigation, that it was PKK propaganda. Our army is clean, there are no such weapons in our inventory', they said. The accusations were immediately denied and the hectic denial showed the consciousness of guilt. At this point I would like to repeat the call that valuable politicians and human rights activists have already made: If the army is clean and the allegations are bogus, then an independent delegation can be allowed to investigate at the scene. This could, after all, prove that everything is clean."


Karayilan said that Turkey is encouraged to commit war crimes at the international level: "When the Turkish state saw that there was no reaction from international circles to the use of prohibited weapons, it dared to use even more chemical gases, tactical nuclear weapons and thermobaric bombs in 2022. The silent attitude of international institutions and especially the support of NATO countries for the Turkish operations, as well as the fact that certain countries offer such weapons to Turkey or manufacture them with it, indicates their complicity. At the very least, the silence of the international institutions as well as the supportive position of the states concerned has encouraged and even made the Turkish state overconfident. In the 21st century, it openly and daily uses dozens of weapons against the freedom fighters of the Kurdish people, which are prohibited by the agreements it has signed.

Is it possible that the international powers do not know about it? No, it is not. So how can the silence of international bodies like the OPCW be interpreted? It is quite obvious how rock-solidly the AKP/MHP war regime assumes that the people of Kurdistan will not be assisted in the international arena. This encourages it to ruthlessly violate international law."


Karayilan pointed out that the Turkish state has repeatedly used poison gas against Kurds since the Dersim massacre in 1937. He warned, however, that war crimes should not be seen as the norm, saying: "It is true that there have been such operations in the past, but there is a difference with today's operations. In the last two years, and especially since April this year, the Turkish state has been using banned weapons in a very systematic way dozens of times a day. This has to be seen. Chemical weapons have been planned as a basic method to break the resistance of the Kurdistan Freedom Guerrilla. It is imperative that all people with a conscience take a stand against this brutal inhumanity. It is not an isolated case that occurs in a state of greatest distress, but a basic procedure to perpetrate genocide and come to a conclusion. Because Hulusi Akar and Tayyip Erdogan see that they have nevertheless made no progress with this so far, the operations are being intensified because they desperately want to have a result before the onset of winter."


Commenting on the media reports about the gas masks allegedly bought by the guerrillas and confiscated by the KDP in the spring, Murat Karayilan said: "These masks were not bought by the guerrillas. They were masks bought and sent as part of a campaign by friendly and democratic circles from Europe who stand for human rights and do not want people to die from chemical weapons. Because they did not know how to reach the guerrillas, they brought the masks to Rojava. Only then did we find out about it. From there, the masks were to be secretly transported to the guerrillas in a civilian vehicle. On the way, the KDP grabbed them and even pretended that they had struck a big blow. That is the story of these masks. They were brought in through the efforts of European friends and confiscated by the KDP."