MP calls on Germany to stop arms exports to Turkey due to its attacks on Syria

Kurdish Syrian firemen put out a blaze at a power station in Qamishli which was reportedly targeted by Turkish drones on January 15, 2024 as Turkey carried out another series of airstrikes against Kurdish sites in northeastern Syria and northern Iraq in what Ankara said was a response for the deaths of nine Turkish soldiers. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

Gökay Akbulut, a member of the German parliament from the Left Party, has called on the German government to stop exporting arms to Turkey due to the country’s attacks on civilian facilities in northern Syria, which she called a “war crime,” Turkish Minute reported, citing Neues Deutschland.

On October 5 Turkey launched an aerial campaign in northern Iraq and Syria’s northeast after the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for a bombing near government buildings in Ankara that injured two police officers. Turkey claimed the attackers came from and were trained in Syria.

The semi-autonomous Kurdish administration has denied the claim and said dozens of people, including security personnel and civilians, have been killed in Turkish attacks, while critical infrastructure has been damaged.

According to data from the Germany-based Society for Threatened Peoples (STPI), an international NGO and human rights organization, Turkish warplanes and drones carried out 74 attacks on the critical infrastructure of northern and eastern Syria December 23-26. In 2023 Turkey carried out 798 attacks on northern Syria, according to STPI, which relies on data from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Akbulut asked the German parliament’s Research Services, which support members’ political work in parliament and the constituencies by supplying specialist information, analyses and expert opinions, whether Turkey’s actions in Syria violate international law. A report from the Research Services said attacks on civilians and facilities such as hospitals are — if deliberate — illegal under international law because they violate Article 8, Paragraph 2 of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute.

Turkey is not a signatory of the Rome Statute.

Akbulut told the German newspaper that Turkey has undoubtedly committed war crimes by deliberately attacking civilian infrastructure in Syria and that it was confirmed by the report from parliament’s Research Services.

She cited the destruction of a medical center in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, a civilian medical facility not used for military purposes, as an example, saying that it speaks for itself as a “war crime.”

“Germany must therefore stop its arms exports to Turkey,” said Akbulut.

The politician, who has been campaigning in Germany for the lifting of a ban on the activities of the PKK, frequently accuses the Turkish government of “waging a brutal war on the Kurdish population inside and outside its borders.”

According to a report in the Der Spiegel magazine, German arms sales to Turkey declined somewhat in 2023, when the country purchased weapons valued at 1.2 million euros with the approval of 17 agreements by the German government for arms sales.

Turkey’s military operations in Syria led some Western countries to impose an arms embargo on Turkey or limit their arms sales to the country.

A report by Human Rights Watch said in October that Turkish drone airstrikes on Kurdish-held areas of northeast Syria damaged critical infrastructure and resulted in the disruption of water and electricity supply for millions of people, calling on the country to immediately stop targeting critical infrastructure necessary for residents’ rights and well-being, including power and water stations.

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