In a recently published (December 23) article, The Jerusalem Post alleged Turkish forces vehemently use prohibited chemical weapons against fighters of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq and killed dozens of Kurdish militants in an operation named ‘Operation Claw Lightning’ that commenced from April 23, 2021.
The PKK has been listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by both the US and the EU.
Against the continued use of chemical weapons, around 50 Kurdish community members held demonstration on December 3rd last year outside the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.
Though, the protesters were arrested by security forces, they demanded investigations on continued use of banned chemical weapons/substances by Turkish forces in northern Iraq.
The article added that these alleged chemical attacks on PKK fighters were carried out under ‘Operation Claw Lightning’ in regions of Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan of Dohuk and Erbil governances.
Turkish forces were making an effort to secure an area of their de facto control, blocking the Kurdish area of control in Syria from the PKK heartland in the Qandil Mountains in northeastern Iraq.
Turkey, a signatory to the ‘1997 – Chemical Weapons Convention’, is knowing using a banned weapon in a clear violation of Convention rules which prohibits utilising, developing or transferring chemical weapons against fighters.
To substantiate their claims, Europe based Kurdish body – Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), circulated a video presenting consequences of a chemical attack that took place on May 03, 2021 in the Avashin region of Duhok Province.
The video, an apparent proof, shows bodies of many PKK fighters with no visible wounds of gun-shots or other injuries, recovered from a cave by Turkish soldiers.
Such deaths generally take place when chemical weapons are used by security forces to neutralize the fighters in uncertain or dark areas of operations.
The Jerusalem Post also cited that pro-Kurdish news website ANF reported similar incidences of organized campaign of chemical weapons use in the combat zone by Turkish military.
The PKK counted more than 323 chemical weapons attacks during the first six months of the operation, with first being in February 2021 in the Gare area.
This chemical weapon attack claimed the lives of six fighters, while 32 others were killed subsequently in Avasin, Metina and Zap region.
ANF website video footage showed Turkish forces releasing gas towards tunnels held by Kurdish fighters in the Werxele area on June 8 last year.
Pro-Kurdish Medyanews also emerged with a video on October 10, 2021 wherein some kind of gas was shown being discharged against PKK fighters.
Several Kurdish members, who somehow survived the chemical attack, described their horrible near death-experiences and thanked ‘Allah’ for their safety.
The article further cleared that the PKK official confirms usage of Tabun nerve gas, Chloropicrin (also known as ‘Green Cross’) with mustard gas as the chemical substances used by the Turkish military during the course of their operation in northern Iraq.
Though, Turkey continuously denies these chemical weapons use claims to avoid any international enquiry and enjoys the status of being a NATO and US ally to discredit these allegations.
Accusation against Turkey is not new; they are facing these alleged crime charges for more than two decades. During this period, OPCW investigation has also not yielded any result to nail Turkish forces.
Kurdish community members are calling for an independent and impartial OPCW or UN-led investigation in Northern Iraq against Turkey and willing to hand-over legit videos and proofs to substantiate alleged usage of prohibited chemical weapons.
It is remained to be seen whether such demonstrations against OPCW or forming a ‘Coalition against Chemical Weapons in Kurdistan’ by a new European based program, would be able to persuade a high level delegation on chemical weapons’ experts to carry out onsite visit of alleged crime and come out with concrete evidence to penalize Turkey.