German state’s war crimes in Kurdistan

German-made poison gases and chemical weapons have been used in wars in Kurdistan throughout the last century, not just in the Dersim massacre in 1938. The involvement was proven time and time again, but the German state always remained silent.

New documents emerged that German-made gases were used in the Dersim genocide, which started in 1937 and ended in 1938. Berlin denied knowledge of the matter. But the Dersim Gazette and Yeni Ozgur Politika newspaper published documents that the Turkish state purchased poison gas from Nazi Germany, by an order signed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The Federal German Government did not respond to the documents, while Die Linke MP Ulla Jelpke spoke to the ANF and said German-made gases were used in crimes committed in Kurdistan, from Dersim to Halabja. 

Kurdistan is no stranger to German-made weapons. Not just in Northern Kurdistan either: In all parts, the Turkish army and other colonialist forces have procured a significant portion of their arsenal from Germany.

During Saddam Hussein’s reign, the Iraqi army purchased the weapons they used in Southern Kurdistan from Germany. So did the Turkish state in the dirty war in Northern Kurdistan in the 1990s. The Leopard tanks, the panzers, BTR 60 vehicles -as seen in Cizre in 1992 and Besiri in 2006-, G3 and G36 rifles and more military equipment were manufactured in Turkey with licensing from Germany.

The poison gas and chemical weapons used against both the civilian population and the guerrillas in Kurdistan were purchased from Germany, as documented several times over. The following is a timeline of Germany serving poison gases to colonialist powers to be used in various locations in Kurdistan during the last century.


On March 16, 1988, the chemical gases that rained down on Southern Kurdistan’s Halabja province cost at least five thousand Kurdish civilians their lives. The gases that tore a wound in Kurdistan that still hasn’t healed were manufactured in a factory in Samarra by the Saddam Hussein regime. But at many stages of the manufacture, German companies were involved.

The Water Engineering Trading Company sent to Samarra the bolting technique to be used in the manufacturing of the gas. Bavarian auto parts manufacturer W.E.T. sold 7 million marks worth of bomb shells and detonators. The Saddam regime purchased chemicals and laboratory equipment from the Karl Kolb company in Hessen, Germany to obtain the gases.

Years later, independent bodies reported that German companies had at least 52% role in the manufacturing of the Halabja bombs. Saddam had purchased 625 million dollars worth of weapons from Germany between 1982 and 1986. In 1990, Germany’s role in the Halabja massacre was brought to the table. The Kohl government at the time backed the weapons traders.

Only in August of 1990 were German prosecutors able to take action, and 7 administrators from Karl Kolbe and W.E.T. companies were issued arrest warrants. But it wasn’t proven that the companies sold weapons to Saddam Hussein, as the sales were made through illicit channels. German intelligence had turned a blind eye to this trade.

German journalists Hans Leyendecker and Richard Rickelmann wrote a book titled “Exporting Death: German Weapons Scandal in the Middle East, where they explained in detail how German companies cooperated with Saddam Hussein and how Germany became complicit in Halabja.


Although banned by international law, in the 30 years of war German-made gases have been used by the Turkish army against the PKK and HPG guerrillas, as documented several times. The most blatant example of these criminal acts was seen in the murder of 20 PKK guerrillas in a cave in Sirnak’s Ballikaya region on May 11, 1999.

Video footage recorded during the clashes on that day by the Turkish army was published in 2011 by Roj TV and ANF. One soldier was seen in the video saying, “Our soldiers are facing a threat of poisoning right now. But they march on, like beasts, like heroes. We took one day off, but the gas is still effective.” Turksih soldiers were then seen giving rollcall to the commander at the head of the operation, Necdet Ozel, who years later became the Chief of Staff.

Some bomb fragments collected from the Ballikaya region were taken to Germany by a German TV reporter and put through a laboratory. The inspection carried out in the Forensic Science Institute in the University of Munich detected traces of the banned CS gas on the fragments. German state television ZDF broadcast a program on October 27, 1999 titled Kennzeichen D (“Mark D”) where documents were shown that the gas RP707 had been sold to Turkey since 1995 by the Buck & Depyfag Company, with approval from the government.