Chomsky suggests sending independent team to northern Iraq to investigate use of chemical weapons by Turkey

Professor Noam Chomsky, a well-known American linguist, philosopher and political activist, said in an interview with the Medya Haber news website that an independent organization should conduct a serious investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by Turkish forces in northern Iraq.

In October the pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency (ANF) published a video showing two members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, apparently under the influence of a chemical agent.

“The Turkish government has committed many atrocities. … Every imaginable form of torture was used during the 1990s against Kurds in Turkey,” Chomsky said. “Therefore, although there is no direct evidence of chemical weapons use by the Turkish government, the allegations provide a legitimate basis for a serious investigation by an independent team in northern Iraq.”

Chomsky also pointed out that the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) could be a highly reliable institution to undertake the investigation as a continuation of a probe they conducted in September with support from the United Nations or one of its member states.

“I don’t think the regional government in northern Iraq has the credibility to call for a serious investigation. Perhaps the Swedish government would be willing to sponsor this investigation since they awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize to the IPPNW,” Chomsky suggested.

The IPPNW, under the leadership of Dr. Josef Savary of Switzerland and Dr. Jan van Aken of Germany, conducted an investigation in northern Iraq from September 20 to 27 following reports of chemical weapons use. However, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil denied access to the region in northern Iraq where the alleged attacks took place, preventing the team from completing the investigation. In this limited setting, some suspicious materials were found that could indicate the use of chemical weapons. However, the Research Committee of IPPNW indicated that further investigation should urgently be conducted with the facilitation of the UN or one of its member states.

The Turkish army has launched successive operations against the PKK’s rear bases in northern Iraq, a persistent thorn in Ankara’s ties with the Baghdad government.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in October said the Turkish armed forces had “no chemical weapons in its inventory.”

“This is out of the question,” he added, slamming the claims as “vile slander.”

However, according to the IPPNW report, Akar admitted in the Turkish parliament in February 2021 that the Turkish military used tear gas in its fight against the PKK. While tear gas is allowed for riot control purposes, e.g., during demonstrations, its use is strictly forbidden by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in a military environment. “This statement by the Defense Minister amounts to acknowledging a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and should be prosecuted under international law, because this use of tear gas clearly happened in a military setting and not as ‘riot control,’ the only exception allowed by the Chemical Weapons Convention,” the report said.

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