Fires
The OPCW’s Short Documentary Video Project

The Fires Project is a series of short documentary videos depicting the intersection of people and chemical weapons.

Sub-titled in the OPCW’s six official languages, these videos are an effective tool for raising awareness about chemical weapons issues.

Fingerprints in the Mountains

As with human fingerprints, chemicals show unique features, which are used to distinguish them within a sample.

Finding and identifying these chemical fingerprints is a detective’s job. The Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland is one of the OPCW’s designated laboratories, which play a role in the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Peter is an analytical chemist at the Spiez Laboratory. His work sometimes has a direct influence on world affairs.

 

Which side do you belong to?

Irish director Donal Fernandes traces the steps of his two great-uncles killed in action during World War I in August 1917. Frederick Falkiner was 22, his brother George was 19. At the front, both brothers had been exposed to mustard gas, the deadliest chemical weapon of the Great War that caused more casualties than all other chemical agents combined.

Germany first used mustard gas in 1917, adding it to an already existing arsenal of chemical weapons such as chlorine, phosgene and cyanogen chloride.

At the end of World War I, mustard claimed more victims than all other chemical agents combined.

Combustion Man

Dr Subith Vasu, combustion and fuel researcher at the University of Central Florida (UCF), USA, investigates what happens to toxic chemicals during explosions. Many such deadly substances may be already in the wrong hands, and detonating them may be an efficient way to eliminate them.

The results of Dr Vasu’s experiments may help ascertain what kind of explosives will be effective in destroying dangerous chemical weapons in the safest possible way. 

Buried Memories

Directly after the first chlorine gas attack in Ieper, Belgium, the German army deployed the same deadly weapon on the Eastern front in May 1915.

The scale of the attack during the battle at Bolimów, Poland, was unprecedented: almost double the amount of chlorine gas was used in Bolimów than at Ieper, leaving thousands of people dead. A hundred years later, Anna Zalewska, a Polish archaeologist, arrives at the banks of the River Rawka near Bolimów. To the naked eye, this area’s tragic past seems buried and forgotten, but as Anna identifies the lines of old trenches, she unearths human remains lying just under a thin layer of forest soil. Anna’s efforts bring the past alive for us: “Archaeology may put an end to certain traumas. What we have to show may be difficult and heartbreaking, but it can enrich us.”

Ich liebe Dich

On 16 March 1988, during the last days of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), Iraqi forces attacked the town of Halabja after it had fallen to the Iranian army and Kurdish guerrillas. Sources mention the use of multiple chemical agents, including mustard gas and nerve agents.

Many died later of cancer and other illnesses which affected the population in the aftermath of the attack. Many still suffer the physical and psychological consequences. Several victims were sent abroad to receive treatment. Kayvan was in a small group of patients who went to Austria. Doctors did not know that their patients were casualties of a chemical attack and did not know how to treat the victims.

A Teacher’s Mission

A scientist’s knowledge is a powerful tool, but what is the value of science to humanity without ethics?

Teacher Chrétien Schouteten explores the subject of ethical chemistry with his students.

To address a wider audience on this theme, Schouteten writes a theatrical play about the life of Fritz Haber, the father of modern chemical warfare. Schouteten’s aim is to create awareness around ethics and chemistry, challenging his students to imagine what they would do if their knowledge were demanded not for noble causes, but for evil purposes.

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