One hundred twenty-one people were briefly detained during a demonstration in İstanbul on Sunday protesting the Turkish armed forces’ alleged use of chemical weapons on Kurdish fighters in military operations in northern Iraq, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.
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.
Police attempted to prevent the demonstration, which was attended by deputies from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), leftist organizations, activists and private citizens to protest the alleged chemical weapons use by the Turkish army, from taking place.
Despite a police blockade the groups, which are demanding an investigation by an independent organization into the military use of chemical weapons, wanted to continue the demonstration. Later, the police detained 121 people, including elderly and sick members of the Saturday Mothers.
The Saturday Mothers are a group of activists and family members seeking the whereabouts of loved ones who disappeared while in police custody in Turkey in the 1990s.
The police also briefly detained 90-year-old passerby Adile Ada with her hands cuffed behind her back. In her statement at the police station, Ada said she was unaware of the protest and that she was in İstanbul to see her grandson. Ada claimed that she was subjected to mistreatment while being detained and had bruises on her body as a result of being manhandled by the police.
All the detainees were released after questioning.
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 an International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (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.