Turkey accused of using illegal phosphorus munitions in Syria
Reports are credible, expert tells Arab News
Hospitals report spike in burns victims
Updated 20 October 2019
ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday.
Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras Al-Ain, a key objective for Turkish troops.
“The Turkish aggression is using all available weapons against Ras Al-Ain,” the Kurdish administration said. “Faced with the obvious failure of his plan, Erdogan is resorting to weapons that are globally banned, such as phosphorus and napalm.”
Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Center for New American Security, told Arab News: “There are now multiple credible reports that Turkey has used white phosphorus munitions in its campaign in northeast Syria, and especially against the stubborn defenders of the city of Ras Al-Ain.”
The attacks on Ras Al-Ain are being investigated by UN chemical weapons inspectors, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Human Rights Watch.
OPCW said it had “not yet determined the credibility of these allegations,” and its inspectors were monitoring the situation.
If the use of banned incendiary weapons were proved, it would be a grave violation of Turkey’s pledge to wage war with concern for civilian lives, Heras said.
Erdogan’s jets ‘dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus in Ras Al-Ain.’
The attacks are being probed by UN chemical weapons inspectors and Human Rights Watch.
A video posted on social media shows children with burns that a doctor says were consistent with the use of banned weapons.
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been a spike in burn wounds treated at the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir, mostly casualties brought in from the Ras Al-Ain area.
The Kurdish Red Crescent said at least six people were being treated in hospital for burns.
Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns that one doctor in Hasakeh province said were consistent with the use of banned weapons.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert, told the UK newspaper The Times that the burns appeared to have been caused by white phosphorus.
The substance may be used to create a smoke screen, or as a battlefield marker, especially at night, but its use as an incendiary weapon is prohibited under international law.
Since 1997, Turkey has been a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.
Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld, a senior fellow at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said the deployment of white phosphorus was not explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.
However, he said, under humanitarian law “the use of means and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited.”
Artists take a stand in Lebanon’s peaceful uprising
What blankets the walls of the ongoing 'revolution' in Beirut and other cities is art
For the protesters, public art is a means of communicating their political message
Updated 53 min 26 sec ago
Rebecca Anne Proctor
BEIRUT: Cries were heard in the town of Khaldeh, south of Beirut, on the night of Nov. 12. They were different from the sounds that have become the background noise of the Lebanese Revolution.
A soldier had killed Alaa Abou Fakher, a local official from the Progressive Socialist Party headed by Walid Jumblatt, a political leader of Lebanon’s Druze community, marking the third death in 27 consecutive days of protests.
The killing has escalated tensions that were already running high amid a nationwide protest movement that started off as a reaction to proposed new taxes before morphing into a veritable “people power” movement.
Protesters are demanding changes to Lebanon’s sectarian system of government, calls that have prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and will likely lead to more departures.
Meanwhile, what blankets the revolution’s walls of Martyrs’ Square; the ring (the tunnel linking west Beirut to east Beirut); the ESCWA (the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia) boundary wall; the area next to Parliament; throughout Tripoli; and in countless other places is another form of protest: Art.
“The art we were trying to express has documented almost all the incidents of the revolution so far, day by day,” said Said Fouad Mahmoud, a graffiti artist who has been practicing for 11 years. “Some people are good with speech, others with song, and we raise our voices with drawings. I drew pictures of the moments that affected me the most: The role of the female in the revolution; the guy cleaning with one leg; and the first day of the revolution, with the flag and the fire.”
Many of the progressive-graffiti-laden walls fall under the umbrella of Iman Nasreddine Assaf’s Art of Change initiative, which she founded in May in partnership with local Beirut-based NGO Ahla Fawda and UK-based Where There’s Walls.
“Our purpose is to promote urban art to more than just the graffiti scene in order to spread important messages throughout the community,” said Assaf. “Our revolution walls are in support of, and part of, the demonstration and revolution. They are expressing people’s pain and demands and the impact has been strong. Art is the international language that touches all.”
Art has emerged as a favored medium of the revolutionaries to convey their political message. To this end, Art of Thawra (Art of Revolution), an Instagram page, is collecting and showcasing relevant artworks produced during the 2019 protests.
“There’s been a drastic increase in street art during this revolution,” said Mahmoud. “People are trying to send messages through their paintings. The art indicates how civilized people have been during the protests and how peaceful the revolution has been until now. I hope it will remain peaceful until the end. If it does, then it means art played a major role in this revolution because art is peace in itself.”
Lebanon’s contemporary art community has issued numerous statements regarding the closures of spaces, programs and exhibitions as artists, curators, and gallerists participate in protests for non-sectarian unity. Beirut’s art community had just assembled for the Home Works event when the protests began on Oct. 17.
The message from the organizers, Ashkal Alwan, postponing the event stated: “Artistic and cultural institutions and initiatives are in no way isolated from broader civic, political, economic, and ideological context but rather shaped as a result of and in response to historical events and their repercussions.”
On Oct. 25 the Beirut Art Center sent out a similar statement: “In solidarity with and participation in the popular uprisings taking place across Lebanon against the current systems of power, we the undersigned cultural organizations and structures collectively commit to Open Strike, and call for our colleagues in the cultural sector to join us.”
Another artistic expression of solidarity is visible at leading Lebanese art dealer Saleh Barakat’s space in the Clemenceau area of Beirut. On Nov. 8 he opened a show featuring an installation by Palestinian Beirut-based artist Abdul Rahman Katanani.
A series of temporary abodes made using painted scrap metal and wood, and surrounded by barbed wire — much like the surroundings of the Sabra refugee camp where the artist lives — were stationed throughout the gallery.
Katanani’s immersive and precarious installation, on view until Jan. 4, asks the question: What future awaits Lebanon?
“Many are now trying to figure out a good balance between getting their work done and participating in the public upheaval,” said Basel Dalloul, founder and director of the Dalloul Foundation. “Cultural production in all its forms can and will be one of the economic drivers of a future Lebanon.”
Ayman Baalbaki, one of Lebanon’s most recognized painters, “is not involved in creating art right now,” said Barakat. “He is going to all of the protests and is completely involved in the need for political change.”
The design duo David Raffoul and Nicolas Moussallem, whose studio goes by the name David/Nicolas, said in a statement: “What’s happening today is very important for all of us Lebanese who would like a brighter and honest future where corruption is not surrounding us.
“We are trying to work but it is not easy. Right now we are focused on how we can help our country.
“On the other hand, creativity is stronger because the revolution gives you such a push.
"Most places are closed and open spontaneously. Thank goodness for social media, so that we can show what we are doing to the world.”
Marwan Sahmarani, a Lebanese painter known for his bold abstract canvases replete with their gestural brushstrokes and vibrant coloring, noted the difficulty of working during a time of turmoil.
“It’s a disturbing moment for everyone,” he said. “There are many feelings, good and bad. I divide my time when needed between my studio and the street. But what do I paint that can be relevant now and not fall into a journalistic rendering of current events?”
Individuals in the creative scene have joined hands in camaraderie to produce several initiatives in solidarity with the protesters. One is Nour Al-Thawra, staged by Sara Beydoun, founder of Lebanese fashion house and social enterprise Sara’s Bag, and her friend Mariana Wehbe.
On the evening of Nov. 6, a group of Lebanese women gathered in Martyrs' Square, each carrying a lighted candle. “Let’s light a candle for the strength we have shown and the resilience that will never die,” wrote Beydoun on her Instagram account. “Bring a candle and your peaceful prayer and let’s combine all of our strengths to light up Martyrs’ Square.”
Beydon told Arab News: “We all want one thing — the Lebanon we dream of.”
Wehbe agreed. “Sarah and I have been on the ground since day one,” she said. “Like every Lebanese woman from this revolution, each one of us is trying to find her way to help, support and move this forward.”
The candle-bearing crowd of women, which the pair turned into a moving video that went viral, was driven by the need to create a “peaceful symbolic prayer.”
“It was a prayer for our country, for our future, for unity, no matter where you come from and what your religious beliefs are,” said Wehbe. “It is a symbol of unity and protection for love, compassion and for our home, Lebanon.”