Personal Views

A secret and dirty war

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 09 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:135
  1. C M Milroy

    I am always apprehensive before giving evidence in court, even when confident of my facts. This time I was more nervous than usual. Not only had the previous witness had a vigorous cross examination, but a request had come into the department for a forensic pathologist to go to Kurdistan at the end of the week. I was the only one who was able to go.

    The request had come from the Kurdistan Human Rights Project, a non-political human rights organisation that monitors human rights abuses against the Kurdish people. The project had received information that Turkish security forces had used chemical weapons or napalm against Kurdish guerrillas, members of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Would I be prepared to travel to Turkish Kurdistan to conduct postmortem examinations to determine the truth of the allegations?

    “Kurdish villages are regularly razed to the ground, Kurdish politicians have been assassinated.”

    I knew very little about Turkish Kurdistan. Turkey contains the largest number of Kurds, around 14 million, mainly in the south east, where they form the majority of the population. After the first world war Kemal Attaturk refused to recognise the Kurds as a separate minority. Forbidden to speak or write their own language, their culture was suppressed and a policy of assimilation was pursued by the Turkish authorities.

    Since 1984 the PKK has been waging a …

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