Chemical warfare, drone terror, imprisonment of thousands of critical journalists and opposition politicians, torture in prisons, support for ISIS and Al Qaeda, and forced displacement: Turkey is waging a brutal war against the Kurds and committing terrible war crimes. No one who believes in the fundamental values of humanity and peace can ignore these war crimes of Turkey and remain inactive. With our campaign we want to make clear: We will not remain silent!
Silence towards war crimes kills: Even in war, rules apply that have been agreed upon by a large part of the international community. The use of chemical and biological weapons, for example, is widely outlawed, and violations usually provoke a strong public reaction. In the case of Turkish war crimes in Kurdistan, however, there is a deafening silence.
Let’s take a step back to understand what is happening there: The Kurds, the largest ethnic group without a state of their own, have been living under occupation by Turkey, Iran, Iraq & Syria since the end of WWI. Especially since the foundation of the Turkish state in 1923, the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan have been fighting for basic human rights, the right to use their language, political participation and the practice of their culture. The Turkish state denies these rights and for a long time even denied the existence of the Kurdish people. The proposals for solutions from Kurdish parties and organizations went unheard. For the past hundred years, Kurdish people in Turkey have been subjected to state persecution, massacres and expulsion. The People’s Defense Units (“Hêzen Parastina Gel”, HPG for short) have therefore been engaged in armed resistance against the genocidal policies of the Turkish state since 1984. Nevertheless, they have repeatedly made proposals for a political solution and have signaled their willingness to engage in dialogue to this day. Since 2015 at the latest, however, the Turkish state has rejected all peace talks and regularly attacks the retreat areas of the “Gerîla,” as the HPG fighters are popularly known, south of the Turkish-Iraqi border (southern Kurdistan). In West Kurdistan, Kurdish “Rojava”, or Northeast Syria, the Kurdish population was able to escape the occupation of the Syrian state in the course of the anti-regime protests in 2011 and today organizes itself together with Assyrians, Arabs, Turkmen and Circassians in a grassroots democratic system with a strong focus on women’s liberation and ecology. In both southern and western Kurdistan, NATO member state Turkey continues its fight against the Kurds: In Syria, Turkey not only supports ISIS but also the Syrian Al Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahir Al-Sham and other jihadist militias in the fight against the Kurds but itself attacked the areas beyond its southern border in 2016, 2018 & 2019 and has illegally occupied parts of the region ever since. Turkey is waging a grueling low-intensity war: drone assassinations of politicians, daily artillery shelling of border regions & cutting off water supplies terrorize the population with the goal of displacement. Reports of horrific war crimes have been mounting for almost 2 years. Attacks with chemical and biological warfare agents: mustard gas, tabun, chloropicrin, also known as “green cross,” and pepper spray. According to HPG reports, Turkish forces have conducted more than 3,000 airstrikes and nearly 2,300 attacks using a variety of internationally banned weapons since April 14 of this year.
The international organization responsible for chemical weapons, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), remains inactive. Only through a brief and cynical clarification, the organization let it be known through its social media channels that it could only take action at the request of one of its member states (it‘s noteworthy that Turkey is one of them). This statement was preceded by weeks of campaigning by Kurdish civil society organizations to remind the OPCW of its obligations. To date, the OPCW has refused to accept reports and dossiers from journalists who have conducted research on the ground.
While governments & the OPCW are passing the responsibility to act to each other, Turkish chemical weapons kill daily in the most bestial way: A recently released video shows the brutality of this war unadulterated: First, a young female guerrilla fighter shows symptoms of irritation and euphoria. Another scene shows a young guerrilla fighter writhing in convulsions, barely able to breathe & repeatedly vomiting. Both die a short time later as a result of the poison gas attack. These symptoms are similar to those of people exposed to large doses of chemical warfare agents, as confirmed by the chairman of the Turkish Medical Association (whereupon she was promptly arrested). In recent weeks demonstrations, online campaigning which #YourSilenceKills was part of, and new proof put pressure on international authorities & media with the result that for the first time a Turkish official, the Turkish Minister of Defense, was forced to publicly deny the use of chemical weapons.
We join the call of the many civil society organizations that demand an immediate, independent investigation of the allegations against Turkey. To create public attention:
1) We call on international media to finally report on Turkey’s war crimes, especially the use of chemical weapons. Silence towards these crimes kills!
2) We call on the OPCW member states and the United Nations to immediately initiate investigations to clarify the chemical weapons allegations against Turkish forces in Southern Kurdistan.
3) We support the call of Kurdish Civil Society in Europe & DefendKurdistan Campaign for Action Days against Turkey’s Chemical Warfare in Kurdistan from 30.11.-04.12.
4) To provide information to the international public & media we produce dossiers, documentaries and an extensive collection of sources.
When international organisations, governments & media remain inactive it is on you, it is on us to act. Together we can break the silence!
#YourSilenceKills – STOP TURKISH WAR CRIMES!