Turkey used chemical weapons against PKK fighters in Iraq: KCK spokesperson

Turkey used chemical weapons against PKK fighters in Iraq: KCK spokesperson
7 min read
06 June, 2022
The PKK-affiliated KCK spokesperson claims that Turkey is using internationally prohibited chemical and thermobaric weapons in its military operation against PKK fighters in Iraq during an interview with The New Arab.
Demonstrations erupt against the Turkish invasion of Iraq and called for urgent action against the violation of international law and for Turkey to withdraw its troops on 4 June 2022 in Rome, Italy. [Getty]

Turkey allegedly used chemical weapons in its recent military operation against the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) at least "164 times", claimed Zagros Hiwa, the spokesperson of the Union of Communities of Kurdistan (KCK).   

The spokesperson also claimed that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the main ruling party in the Iraqi Kurdistan region and a historical rival to the PKK, was actively supporting the Turkish forces in its fight against the PKK. 

Hiwa's claims were made to The New Arab during a recent interview via email. The KCK is an umbrella political organization for Kurds who support Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK's imprisoned leader, and is linked to the PKK in general. 

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Regarding the latest developments of the ongoing fighting between the Turkish army and the PKK forces in Iraq, Hiwa said that since April 14 the Turkish army has been trying to enter Zap and Avashin areas and heavily bombed the territory via fighter jets and helicopter gunships, as well as artillery and missile fires, in an attempt to station troops under the surveillance of armed drones. 

"Despite these heavy attacks, the guerrilla forces are holding on to their positions and are putting up a fierce and determined resistance against the invading Neo-Ottoman army of Sultan Erdogan," Hiwa said. "Unable to break the resistance of Kurdistan Freedom Guerrillas, the invading Turkish army has resorted to the use of internationally prohibited chemical and thermobaric weapons against the guerrilla positions and war tunnels. Until now, 164 of these chemical attacks have been carried out."

Hiwa argued that the international powers and international bodies, particularly the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), have turned a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons by Turkey. 

"The OPCW has refused to conduct investigations on the many samples and documents we have provided," Hiwa claimed. 

Regarding the death toll and the damages to the Turkish army, the KCK spokesperson said that they have killed 450 Turkish soldiers, and wounded 98 others within one month of fighting. He said that the Kurdish fighters have also downed a helicopter, forced 22 helicopters to withdraw or land forcibly, and destroyed three drones and one tank. He also admitted that at least 25 PKK fighters have been killed.

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In terms of the KDP's role in the fighting, Hiwa claims that the KDP is cooperating with Turkey with the aim to root out PKK fighters from the mountainous area on the border with Turkey, Iraq and Iran. 

"The KDP is actively supporting Turkey’s war of invasion against South Kurdistan (IKR). This support has political, diplomatic, logistical, intelligence, and military dimensions. Politically, KDP gives legitimacy to this invasion by holding PKK responsible for the attacks," Hiwa said. 

He also said that the KDP supports the deployment of Turkish troops deep inside KRG areas "to enable them to surround guerrilla areas", further claiming that the KDP helps Turkish troops dress up in Peshmerga fatigues and were deployed in Peshmerga vehicles. 

Since its establishment, several commentators have said the PKK has been receiving support from several countries, including Iran and Russia, which Hiwa disagrees with. 

"We are the movement of the peoples for freedom. Wherever we are, we receive support from our people, particularly the Kurdish people. We have been in these areas from 1982 on, ten years before the KDP was able to return to the KRI. At that time, the KDP leadership was in Tehran. During these years we have made the necessary preparations to face the attacks of the enemy of the Kurds," he said. 

"We totally depend on our capabilities and resources in facing off Turkish attacks on South Kurdistan. Iran has provided no help whatsoever to us. According to the official statements of Iranian authorities, they hold yearly sessions with the Turkish regime to coordinate their efforts against the PKK," he added.

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The Iraqi foreign ministry, currently headed by Foud Hussein, a key member of the KDP, has condemned Turkey's breach of Iraq's sovereignty and the killing of Iraqi civilians via drone attacks. However, the Iraqi federal government has yet to raise the matter with international bodies such as the UN Security Council.

"KRI is formally a part of Iraq, and Turkey has invaded this part of Iraq. But the Iraqi government has taken no political, military, or diplomatic measures against this invasion. Their measures have not gone beyond some routine statements. Iraq has opened its air space to Turkish fighter jets and armed drones," Hiwa stressed. 

 The Iraqi army and Sinjar Protection Units (YBS) last month engaged in several skirmishes in Sinjar and its surroundings, in which at least some troops were killed from both sides. The PKK has been blamed of being supporting the YBS fighters, but Hiwa rejected that claim.

"We have no organizational relations with YBS. We withdrew our forces from Sinjar in 2018 after we made sure that the YBS and the people of Sinjar could defend themselves against IS. We are committed to defending the Yazidi people against genocides and massacres. That's why we intervened in Sinjar in 2014 after we realized that the KDP forces and the Iraqi army are unable to defend the people of Sinjar against IS," Hiwa said. 

"Iraq has opened its military structure to more Turkish intervention. Using some Turkmen and radical Sunni forces, Turkey provoked some elements within the Iraqi army to attack Sinjar, where YBS forces have been fighting against IS for the last 8 years. The KDP is the main enabler and facilitator in this plan," the spokesperson argued. 

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Regarding the PKK's position on Sinjar, Hiwa further said, "I think the first duty of the Iraqi army and the KDP towards the people of Sinjar is to self-reflect on their failure to defend them and to respect the right of the Yazidis to self-defence and local administration within the territorial integrity of Iraq."

Regarding the PKK's current and long term goals, the spokesperson stressed, "Our immediate goal is to defend the existence of the Kurds against the denial and annihilation policies of the Turkish state. The Turkish state does not recognize the existence and the rights of the Kurds. Our long term goal is to ensure a constitutional solution to the Kurdish question based on democratization in Turkey and the larger Middle East."

Answering the question of why the 2012 peace talks between the PKK and the Turkish state collapsed, Hiwa replied, "The peace talks collapsed because the state mentality in Turkey was against the peaceful and democratic solution of the Kurdish question. The mentality of the Turkish state does not recognize the existence of the Kurds as a people with political and democratic rights. More than 20 million Kurds in Turkey have no right to education in their mother tongue."

"In order to facilitate a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question we have withdrawn our forces from Turkey towards South Kurdistan two times, 1999 and 2013," he added. "Particularly the 2013 withdrawal was negotiated with all the interested parties, Turkey, Iraq and KRG authorities. But when we realized that Turkey was not sincere in solving the Kurdish question peacefully and democratically, many of those forces were redeployed to North Kurdistan (Turkey) and are still there, continuing their struggle."

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Turning to the PKK's relations with the Arab countries, Hiwa noted, "From 1979 on, we have established good relations with the Arab people. Our resistance against the Turkish invasion is at the same time the resistance of the Arab people against the Neo-Ottoman ambitions of Erdogan. The Arab people and intelligentsia support us in this resistance. Unfortunately, the official policies of the Arab countries do not reflect the true will and attitude of the Arab people."

"Turkey intervenes in the Arab world. It has eight military bases in Arab countries. Turkey has become a part of internal conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, Algeria, and Tunisia. We believe fraternity between the Arab and Kurdish people, as the victims of the Ottoman and Neo-Ottoman policies, will bring stability to the Middle East," he added. 

On Palestine, Hiwa stressed, "We think that the democratic solution of the Kurdish Question based on democratic self-administration and Democratic Confederation will facilitate the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The solutions to the two issues are intertwined with each other. The Palestinians and the Kurds are the victims of the same denial and annihilation policy, one enacted by Israel, and the other enacted by Erdogan."

The PKK, a Kurdish guerrilla force struggling for autonomy in Turkey, was formed in the late 1970s by Ocalan. The PKK, described by Turkey, the United States and the EU as a "terrorist" organization, has launched an armed war against the Turkish army since 1984. 

In 1999 Ocalan was apprehended in Kenya and taken back to Turkey, where he was tried and sentenced to death for treason. In October 2002 Turkey changed Ocalan's sentence to life imprisonment. He is now spending his term in the Imrali island prison.

In April of this year, the Turkish army launched a cross-border incursion dubbed "Operation Claw-Lock", into northern Iraqi Kurdistan to fight PKK guerrillas. Many have been killed from both sides and hundreds of Kurdish villagers were forced to evacuate their homes due to the ferocious fighting.