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Report: Turkey Used Chemical Weapons Against Kurds

Der Spiegel magazine reports that photographs have proven that PKK fighters in Turkey were killed by chemical weapons.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/13/2010, 1:08 AM / Last Update: 8/13/2010, 1:04 AM

Israle news photo Creative Commons

According to a report that was published on Thursday in the German magazine Der Spiegel, German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that show that PKK fighters in Turkey were killed by chemical weapons.

The photographs in question were given in March by activists to a German human rights delegation, comprised of experts, journalists and politicians from Turkey’s Left Party. The photos feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts, so much so that he victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, which according to Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists show eight members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) underground movement, considered a terrorist movement by the UN, EU and NATO. They are believed to have been killed in September 2009.

A forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has said that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died "due to the use of chemical substances."

Turkey has long been suspected of using chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels, and the evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government to come up with answers. German politicians and human rights experts are now demanding an investigation into the incident.

Claudia Roth, co-chair of Germany's Green Party, told Der Spiegel: "The latest findings are so spectacular that the Turkish side urgently needs to explain things. It is impossible to understand why an autopsy of the PKK fighters was ordered but the results kept under seal."

Roth also demanded that Turkey issue an official statement on the possible use of chemical weapons.

Die Tageszeitung, a daily newspaper in Berlin, reported on Thursday that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has rejected the accusations. The Ministry said that Turkey is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and as such its armed forces do not possess any biological or chemical weapons.

The newspaper also reported that it has obtained additional pictures from the autopsies of six other killed Kurds. These images have also been submitted to the experts for examination.

Human rights activists in Turkey have also demanded an investigation, but the Turkish army has refused to comment.

Recently, there has been an increase in acts of PKK rebels against Turkish military targets. A PKK rocket killed six Turkish soldiers in the Mediterranean port at the end of May. At the end of June, Turkish security forces shot dead two villagers gathering herbs in northern Kurdistan after mistaking them for Kurdish resistance fighters.

In response, the Kurds attacked foreign military positions in the portions of what they consider their homeland  occupied by Turkey and on a bus carrying military personnel in Istanbul. The Kurds believe that their country should include the adjoining parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria that have large Kurdish populations and that once also had a Jewish community. The Kurdish Jews emigrated to Israel in the early days of the Jewish state.

Since 1984, more than 45,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the conflict to achieve goals that were defined as self determination, independence and later as, cultural recognition. The United States recently announced that it sides with Turkey in the conflict and regards the PKK as a terrorist group. Ambassador James Jeffrey said in a statement at the end of June: "We stand ready to review urgently any new requests from the Turkish military or government regarding the PKK. The PKK is a common enemy of both Turkey and the U.S. and we actively support the efforts of our Turkish allies to defeat this terrorist threat.”