Conflict & Justice

An activist group allege Turkey used chemical weapons against Kurdish soldiers


Turkish soldiers carry the coffins of slain soldiers Eyup Colakoglu, as hundreds of people attend the funeral of two Turkish soldiers who were killed in an attack by Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, on October 21, 2011. Mourning Turkey paid its last respects to 24 soldiers killed by Kurdish rebels on the Iraq border as the Turkish air force pounded rebel camps in northern Iraq.



An activist group is alleging Turkey used chemical warfare in last month’s military offensive against members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), circulating photos of blackened and dismembered corpses, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The Turkish Human Rights Association and members of the BDP, a pro-Kurdish party, raised accusations that the only explanation for the type of burns shown is by chemical weapons. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, publicly denied the allegations during his recent trip to the G20 summit in Cannes.

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"This is slander," Mr. Erdogan said. "The operations in the Kazan Valley were carried out by our Air Force. The [bodies of] PKK members who were killed in the caves are currently in the Forensic Medicine Institute in Malatya, where everything is proceeding according to the law, down to the DNA tests."

Turkish soldiers killed at least 49 PKK soldiers in October in the country’s largest military offensive against the rebel group in three years. 

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Nearly 10,000 Turkish soldiers were sent to southeastern Turkey and across the Iraq border, carrying out ground and air offensives against the rebels. Turkish President Abdullah Gül descibed the military offensive as retribution to the PKK-led attack that left at least 24 Turkish soldiers dead

Turkey has been accused of resorting to chemical warfare before, as the Daily Telegraph wrote:

“It would not be the first time the Turkish authorities had been accused of resorting to chemical weapons – a particularly sensitive issue because of the massacre of thousands of Kurds with mustard gas by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s.

Last year, the German magazine Der Spiegel said experts at Hamburg University Hospital shown photographs of similarly scorched and burned bodies from a strike in September 2009 also attributed the deaths to the ‘highly probable’ use of ‘chemical substances.’”