Time to put Turkish officials on trial for their crimes in Kurdistan, says KNK

The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) has published a report titled ‘Time to Put Turkish Officials on Trial for Their Crimes in Kurdistan’.

The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) has published a report titled ‘Time to Put Turkish Officials on Trial for Their Crimes in Kurdistan’.

With the report, the KNK wants “to draw attention to the unlawful methods Turkey is using in its war in Kurdistan. In South Kurdistan and the other parts of Kurdistan, Turkey systematically violates international conventions, such as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (the Chemical Weapons Convention or CWC).”

The report said that “Especially during the increase of the Kurdish resistance and international awareness for the Kurdish question in the 1990s, the Turkish military started to use chemical weapons in addition to the dirty war methods it had been using for decades, e.g. extrajudicial killings, torture, burning down of villages and forced depopulation. At that time, several international institutions and the Kurdish public opinion made great efforts and finally succeeded in drawing the international public`s attention to this issue. But unfortunately, the way the international community has reacted to Turkey`s use of chemical weapons has emboldened Turkey to continue to systematically violate international agreements that ban the use of chemical weapons.”
The report added: “In the past 30 years, dozens of Kurdish freedom fighters and civilians including women and children were killed by chemical weapons used by the Turkish army. The Turkish state even went so far as to try to poison the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in 2007. Due to the immediate and strong international reaction Mr. Öcalan received medical treatment shortly after the accusations became public. Despite all these incidents, Turkey has not stopped to use chemical weapons in Kurdistan. It would be impossible to list all the attacks with chemical weapons carried out by the Turkish army in Kurdistan in the course of the last decades. According to international media reports, several Kurdish fighters were killed when chemical weapons were used against them in 2009, 2013 and 2017. Turkey has increased its use of these internationally banned weapons, especially when it occupied parts of North East Syria (Rojava) which had earlier been liberated from the Islamic State (IS) by the Syrian-Kurdish fighters and the International Coalition. Chemical weapons were deployed by Turkey during the Afrin invasion in 2018 and the occupation of Gire Spi and Serekaniye in October 20195. The Kurdish boy Mohammed Hamid Mohammed, himself a resident of Serekaniye, became known worldwide after he had suffered severe injuries due to a Turkish air raid with white phosphor bombs on his hometown.”

The report underlined that “despite all these verified facts and the ample evidence, the Turkish government led by Erdogan and the country`s military have never been condemned for their crimes by international institutions and states. All of them have ignored their own laws and moral duties. This silence and coward permission given to the Erdogan government has paved the way for Turkey`s massive use of chemical weapons in South Kurdistan`s (Iraqi Kurdistan) regions of Metina, Zap and Avaşîn since April 23, 2021. According to regional news outlets and local sources, the Turkish army has deployed chemical weapons dozens of times during its attacks on South Kurdistan. Several members of the guerrillas and civilians have been killed or injured as a result of these attacks. The Christian Peacemaker Teams-Iraq, an NGO based in South Kurdistan, has confirmed at least one of these instances based on their independent research in the regions directly affected by Turkey`s attacks. Based on this report, we intend to highlight the seriousness and urgency of this matter, which constitutes a crime against humanity and a war crime and leads to the dramatic damage of the natural environment in South Kurdistan.”

The report offers information, pictures and videos provided by local sources that clearly prove the use of chemical weapons by Turkey. “The permission to use chemical weapons given to an autocratic leader such as Erdogan – said the report - entails the danger of even more inhumane and brutal crimes being committed by him in other places in the future.”

Turkish use of Chemical Weapons in South Kurdistan (Zap, Metina and Avaşîn)

The report said: “Motivated by its neo-Ottoman aspiration to occupy all of South Kurdistan and drive out the local Kurdish population, Turkey has been carrying out ground and air operations for decades. Since April 23, 2021, these operations have seen a dramatic escalation. In addition to the use of thousands of soldiers and a huge arsenal of conventional weapons, the Turkish army resorted to the use of chemical weapons almost immediately after the start of the attacks. This happened after the Turkish army realized that it could not break the huge resistance of the HPG guerrillas. In its monthly balance sheets, the HPG (People`s Defense Forces) confirmed 132 incidents of attacks with chemical weapons on guerrilla forces between April 23 and August 23.”

Dozens of more attacks have happened ever since. “These attacks have directly led to the death of more than a dozen members of the guerrillas. The areas most heavily affected by the use of chemical weapons are Girê Sor and Werxelê in the Avaşîn region. Here, the guerrilla forces are forced to defend themselves against chemical attacks on almost a daily basis. The civilian population of South Kurdistan has also been directly affected by Turkey`s use of chemical weapons.”

Turkish use of Chemical Weapons in North and East Syria (Rojava)

The report said that “for many, the use of chemical weapons by Turkey does not come as a surprise. Instead, these attacks serve as a reminder of Turkish war crimes committed in the past, the most recent one being Turkey`s attacks on the North Syrian cities of Gire Spi and Serekaniye in October 2019. Ever since the establishment of a system of self-administration by the Kurds and the other peoples of North and East Syria, Turkey has been desperately trying to prevent any progress in this regard. Turkey`s aggressive attitude towards North and East Syria is motivated by the country`s fear that the Kurds of Syria could gain a political status based on their own will.”

The report recalled that “the use of white phosphor during a Turkish air raid on the city of Serekaniye on October 17, 2019 led to a widespread international outcry. Several children were hospitalized with severe burns around their body as a result of these attacks. The SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), the multi-ethnic self-defense force of North and East Syria, reacted promptly by calling for official international investigations.”

Weak International Reactions

The report underlined that “compared to the scale and duration of Turkey`s attacks on South Kurdistan, the international community and media outlets have so far shown little to no interest in the grave consequences. Apart from only very careful and few statements by the Iraqi government, only a very small number of countries have so far criticized Turkey for occupying territory of one of its neighbouring countries or condemned the Erdogan government for its use of brute force to achieve its goal.”

The report added: “Especially international institutions, like the UN, EU and Council of Europe, the governments of the USA and UK and international organizations responsible for prohibiting the use of chemical weapons have not said a single word against Turkey`s use of chemical weapons. All the institutions and states, which are quick to use the deployment of chemical weapons by their enemies to justify attacks on them, remain silent if these weapons are used by their allies, in this case Turkey." 

The KNK’s Demands

The KNK called “on all international institutions, governments and the international public

-to condemn Turkey for its crimes and use of chemical weapons.

-to put Turkish government and state officials on trial for their crimes against humanity and war crimes.

-to impose sanctions on Turkey for using chemical weapons.

-to impose an arms embargo on Turkey.

We call on the international press to break their silence and start reporting on Turkey`s use of chemical weapons.

We call on the international public and all democratic forces to show solidarity with the Kurd ish resistance and support the Kurds` demand for an immediate stop of Turkey`s attacks and use of chemical weapons.”