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Turkey using banned chemical weapons in northern Iraq against Kurds: Report

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey

Despite being a signatory to the '1997 – Chemical Weapons Convention', several media reports reveal how Ankara is using a banned weapon in the middle east region, including the use of prohibited chemical weapons against fighters of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq.

The PKK has been listed as a proscribed terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union (EU). Citing The Jerusalem Post, Paul Antonopoulos, writing in the Greek City Times, said that the report in the publication "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."

Against the continued use of chemical weapons, around 50 Kurdish community members held a demonstration on December 3 last year outside the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, Antonopoulos said.

Though the protesters were arrested by security forces, they demanded investigations on the continued use of banned chemical weapons/substances by Turkish forces in northern Iraq.

According to Antonopoulos, The Jerusalem Post also cited that pro-Kurdish news website ANF reported similar incidences of an organized campaign of chemical weapons use in the combat zone by the Turkish military.

The PKK counted more than 323 chemical weapons attacks during the first six months of the operation, with the first being in February 2021 in the Gare area, the report said.

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," Greek City Times reported.

Turkey continuously denies these chemical weapons use claims to avoid any international inquiry and enjoys the status of being a NATO and US ally to discredit these allegations, Antonopoulos said.

According to Antonopoulos, the accusation against Turkey is not new; they are facing these alleged crime charges for more than two decades. During this period, the 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, Antonopoulos said.

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 the alleged crime and come out with concrete evidence to penalize Turkey, Antonopoulos added.

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