Call for investigation into use of chemical gas in Turkish operation in Gare
Despite the confession of the Turkish Minister of Defence and the accounts of PKK commander Murat Karayılan, the silence of international organizations including the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) catches the attention.
On February 22, 2021, Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Executive Council member Murat Karayılan spoke on the Kurdish television station Stêrk TV. He stated that the Turkish army used chemical gas in its attack on the Garê region in southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq) from February 10-14. In his statement, he called on international institutions to visit the region and investigate in this regard.
“If it had been summer or if there had been three to four hours of rainy, cloudy weather, not one soldier of the Turkish army would have survived. They would have all been annihilated. Nevertheless, the resistance of our friends resulted in a great defeat for the Turkish army. When it realized that it was encircled, it used chemical agents and took flight without a backward glance. From the Turkish army's point of view, it was a bitter defeat,” Karayılan said.
The top commander underlined that the military operation was not carried out to save the prisoners as the Turkish army wanted to settle in the middle of Gare. He said, “When the Turkish troops realized that they were surrounded, they had to retreat. Even a person with little military knowledge would realize that this operation makes no logical sense. After all, is it possible to liberate prisoners from an underground camp using bombs and poison gas? This is simply absurd. The attacks, as fierce as they have been, have been repelled by Commander Şoreş with counterattacks, forcing the Turkish army to withdraw from the camp. This scene was repeated dozens of times: Bombardments - attempted infiltration - retreat. In the end, chemical agents were used. To sum up, nothing has been done to save the POWs, on the contrary. All lethal weapons have been used.”
ANF footage from the ground also showed gas masks among the materials left behind by the Turkish troops during their withdrawal from the embattled area.
In an “information” speech in the parliament after the military operation, in which 13 Turkish POWs were also killed, Turkish Minister of National Defence, Hulusi Akar said “only tear gas” was used during the operation, which was actually a confession of the use of chemical gas.
Despite both the confession of the Turkish Minister of Defence and the accounts of Karayılan, the silence of international organizations including the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) catches the attention.
IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) Turkey Representative Gisela Penteker spoke to ANF on the subject and said that Turkey’s war against the Kurds is illegal in several respects under international law even without the use of chemical weapons.
Referring to previous allegations of similar cases in the region, Penteker said; “We know from experience with earlier reports of poison gas use, e.g. in Syria, how difficult it is to provide evidence on the ground. From the photos provided, a use can usually only be assumed. I myself only know what I have read about poison gas violations.”
Asked if she knew whether Turkey is in possession of chemical weapons, Penteker replied, “I do not know. However, I think it is possible, although it should not be within the framework of NATO. This unspeakable war of Turkey against the Kurds both in Turkey and in Syria and Iraq is in several respects illegal under international law even without the use of chemical weapons. The so-called Western community of values makes itself complicit.”
In the meantime, after the statements of Karayılan, ANF asked OPCW via mail on February 24 if the organisation would take action to investigate the allegations of chemical gas use by the Turkish army in Gare. OPCW is yet to reply.
OPCW’s close relations with Turkey came to light in the wake of the Turkish occupation of Gire Spi (Tal Abyad) and Serekaniye (Ras al-Ain) in October 2019. Amids repeated and louder calls for an international investigation into Turkish use of prohibited weapons during genocidal attacks, it came out on October 17, 2019 that the government of Turkey contributed €30,000 to a “special OPCW Trust Fund to support the project to upgrade the current OPCW Laboratory and Equipment Store”.