Debate on Turkey's use of chemical weapons in the British Parliament

A question by two Labour MPs on Turkey's use of chemical weapons has taken place in the House of Commons. The classification of the PKK as terrorist is also detrimental to democracy and needs to be changed urgently, MPs stated.

Two deputies of Britain’s Labour Party, Kim Johnson and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, raised the issue of Turkey's use of chemical weapons in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the Turkish state's repression of anyone critical of it in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Liverpool Labour MP Kim Johnson asked Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Leo Docherty, whether his department would ask the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to conduct an investigation into Turkey's use of chemical weapons in northern Iraq.

Johnson also drew attention to the Turkish state's repression of CHP deputy Sezgi Tanrikulu, against whom a case was brought for supporting terrorism after he called for an investigation into the Turkish army's use of chemical weapons. Kim Johnson further made it clear that it was time to follow the Belgian Supreme Court and review the classification of the PKK as a terrorist organisation. If this did not happen, Britain would be covering up Turkey's human rights violations against the Kurds inside and outside its borders, the MP stated.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, another Labour MP, quoted CHP MP Sezgin Tanrikulu: "I have seen the footage of the alleged chemical weapons. Chemical weapons are crimes against humanity. Tomorrow I will submit an enquiry about the veracity of these allegations." For this statement alone, Tanrikulu was charged with terrorism and supporting the PKK, even though Turkey's defence minister confirmed that Turkey was using gas. Russell-Moyle stressed that Sezgin Tanrikulu was a member of the CHP, Turkey's founding party. The classification of the PKK as terrorist is exaggerated and stifles democracy in Turkey, he said.

Leo Docherty, a Conservative MP, responded to the two Labour MPs' questions by saying that, in his department's view, Turkey was exercising its right of self-defence against a terrorist organisation. “The government is aware of allegations that Turkey is using white phosphorus in northern Iraq, but there is no evidence. Of course, the British government is obliged to take evidence seriously in order to enforce the ban on chemical weapons,” he said.

The minutes of the House of Commons meeting can be read here.