“There is very suspicious circumstantial evidence”
A delegation went to northern Iraq to investigate indications of Turkish chemical weapons use in northern Iraq. A conversation with Beppe Savary-Borioli
Martin Dolzer, 26.10.2022
You were recently commissioned by the medical peace organization IPPNW to conduct research in northern Iraq. What exactly was it about?
We should follow up on indications of the use of chemical agents by the Turkish army against the PKK guerrillas and the Kurdish civilian population. With this, IPPNW Germany had asked me and the biologist Jan van Aken, a former UN expert on chemical and biological weapons and former member of the Bundestag for Die Linke.
Were you supported by the Kurdish regional government in Erbil in your mission?
We were obstructed on the ground by the Kurdistan Democratic Party – KDP, the ruling party formed around the Barsani clan. They denied us access to the region where the chemical weapons operations reportedly took place. The KDP governor of the Amedi region also barred us from visiting a family with very concrete evidence of intoxication with yperite (mustard gas, jW). Shanaz Chan, from The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, the second “large” regional party, who has since become Iraq’s first lady, told us that she could not help us with our task.
Were you able to find any evidence or circumstantial evidence to confirm the Kurdish movement’s reports of the multiple use of different chemical warfare agents by the Turkish army?
Yes, we succeeded in numerous conversations in gathering various valuable indications of the potential use of chemical warfare agents by the Turkish army. Foremost among the various indications of the use of chemical warfare agents is a memo from Turkish War Minister Hulusi Akar on February 16 th 2021 to the Turkish Parliament in which he officially confirms the use of tear gas in combat operations against the PKK. However, tear gas falls under the chemical weapons ban in wartime operations. Only the police are permitted to use it under certain conditions. The discovery of a casing of a BC weapon filter to a gas mask also allows the obvious assumption that corresponding weapons were used. Black smoke introduced into a PKK cave fortress by Turkish soldiers using a blower is also a clear violation of the ban on chemical weapons. Whether the large, empty detergent containers found in the combat area came from a Turkish field laundry or rather their contents were used to produce chloride gases, we cannot conclusively judge. The latter assumption, however, is obvious. There are enough very suspicious indications, which should be urgently clarified by the competent authorities.
Who controls or sanctions the use of chemical weapons?
The Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons provides that, in the event of a well-founded suspicion of the use of these banned agents, a signatory state to this convention can request the Organization for the Control of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, in The Hague or the General Secretariat of the United Nations to conduct an official investigation, which must be granted and which no one can oppose. Now we all know that the suspicions of the Kurds are probably more than justified, but the Kurdish people do not have their own state. It would be very difficult to find a European state that would be willing to take on Turkey.
Do you see any possibility of changing the procedure for preventing and controlling the ban on chemical weapons in such a way that affected actors can assert their rights even beyond the geostrategic interests of states?
We must urgently demand that NGOs or peoples who are not represented by a state can also initiate an official investigation. Until such a change takes place – if it ever does – a state must be found that has the courage to stand up to Turkey in order to help the Kurds to their rights and to put an end to this cruel butchery.
Beppe Savary-Borioli is president of PSR/IPPNW (Physicians for Social Responsibility and for the Prevention of Nuclear War) Switzerland. He has worked as an emergency physician mainly in mountain rescue and as a helicopter rescue physician
Translated from German. Original Article: