Protesters ask Turkey to stop alleged chemical weapons use

Protesters hold a banner reading "No to the Turkish invasion of Southern Kurdistan" during a demonstration against Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the Kurdish region, in Duesseldorf, Germany, Nov. 12. 2022. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in the German city of Düsseldorf against Turkey’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the Kurdish region and the international community’s apparent apathy about the issue.

The participants started at two separate locations before joining under the motto “Stop Chemical Warfare in Kurdistan!” Speakers criticized international governments for not doing more to address alleged war crimes that have been denied by Turkey.

Düsseldorf police spokesman Marcel Fiebig told The Associated Press that “several thousand” people took part in the demonstration organized by Kon-Med, a Germany-based association of Kurdish groups.

Last month, Turkish officials strongly rejected the allegations made by Kurdish militants that the Turkish military used chemical weapons against the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq, insisting the military doesn’t have such weapons.

Those statements did little to assure Saturday’s demonstrators, who were critical of Germany’s reticence to investigate.

“The federal government recently declared that it sees no way for an international investigation into the Turkish use of chemical weapons. From our point of view, this is scandalous,” said Zübeyde Zümrüt of Kon-Med. “The federal government supports the regime in Ankara politically, financially and also militarily. If the federal government remains inactive in the face of these crimes, we believe that it is jointly responsible for the crimes in Kurdistan.”

Last month, Turkish police detained Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of the Turkish Medical Association, after she called for an independent investigation into allegations that Turkey’s military had used chemical weapons against Kurdish militants.

Fincanci, a leading human rights activist, was detained on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda,” according to the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office.

Turkey has been conducting a series of military operations in northern Iraq since 2019, saying it's targeting the PKK to prevent it from launching cross-border attacks on Turkey.