Hayvanlar Adası, 27 Ocak 2006

Turgut Durduran

 

Saying "NO To War" Is Not Enough, Anti-militarism Always and Everywhere!

Many of us talk about being anti-militarists. We denounce war. We attend rallies against war, or atleast some selected wars. We say that we want the military out of our schools. We do not like to do military service ourselves but hardly ever do anything about it. We complain about the military zones, military vehicles but never really do anything about that either. This is not enough, we need to be anti-militarists always and everywhere, i.e. under all conditions, we should refuse militarism. 1
One anti-militarist stance that has gained legal recognition is conscientious objection (CO) to compulsory military service. It is considered to be a human right in the European conventions. European Court of Human Rights has passed numerous judgements to that end. More about this later on. Conscientious objection is a very important issue for us, the Cypriots, from both sides of the barbed wire.
Republic of Cyprus (RoC) was forced to pass legislation on CO only because of the European Union entry process [1]. Instead of passing an independent legislation, they have adapted the "National Guard" 2 [1] providing a substitute service as Section 5 of the National Guard Law provides for a 36 months' unarmed military service within the armed forces, and a 42 months' 'unarmed military service outside the armed forces'.
This is a shame since RoC constitution adopted circa 1960 was calling for such legislation [1];Article 10: "No person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour" but this shall not include äny service of a military character if imposed or, in case of conscientious objectors, subject to their recognition by a law, service exacted instead of compulsory military service". According to the same source, the provisions for a substitute service are still insufficient; It is not clear how far this 'unarmed military service outside the armed forces' can be considered to be a genuinely civilian substitute service. Although it is a non-uniformed service, the wording 'unarmed military service outside the armed forces' leaves some ambiguity concerning its non-military nature. A report issued by the Council of Europe in 2001 in fact concludes that Cyprus has no laws setting up a genuine alternative service. Furthermore, after completing 'unarmed military service outside the armed forces', COs are still obliged to participate in reservist training within the armed forces.[1]
It should be noted here that eventhough I am a citizen of RoC and RoC constitution calls for an army consisting of both Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities, I am exempt from the so-called "National Guard" (see footnote 2), I suppose, since I fall into the category of the "enemy" rather than a citizen with equal rights. As an objector, I would not want to have anything to do with any military, however, this discriminatory, unfair practice (it is unfair and discriminatory towards my fellow Cypriots who are obliged to perform some form of military service) can not be accepted because of this small gain it brings to the Turkish Cypriot community. This being said, further comments on the "National Guard" and its practices should be left for those who are falling within its scope 3.
Now the puppett show in north Cyprus, "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (KKTC/TRNC) 4. As a Turkish Cypriot (T/C), I am one of those lucky (!) people whose life is in the hands of a multitude of legal and pseudo-legal states. As I mentioned above, RoC decided that I am "exempt". However, KKTC did not. They are very eager to get me to perform my "national duty" 5. I do not know why like me so much. I mean, I am living/working thousands of miles away. I write all these nasty articles. I am not in good physical shape. I would not show any interest, any effort to do well in my military service. But, they still want me and my money. Oh well.
Before I get too side-tracked on this. Let me point out that for all practical purposes the Turkish occupation army is the institution in charge and not a legitimate Turkish Cypriot military 6. Whatever happens in north Cyprus is ultimately tied to the events in Turkey. So let's take a look at the situation in Republic of Turkey. Recently, conscientious objectors and the concept itself has been making headlines there. As far as I can tell, this is the first time the issue can be uttered in the mainstream media without massive threats and court-cases flying in the air. It is a sign of changing times in Turkey. Yet, there is still no recognized conscientious objector status. Objectors are still prosecuted for disobeying military orders aand find themselves in an endless cycle of court cases and jail-time [3]. This week, European Court of Human Rights has passed a judgement on "Ülke v. Turkey" which has been evaluated as being an precedent setting decision [4]. The main point is that the court ruled [t]hat [since] legal framework was evidently not sufficient to provide an appropriate means of dealing with situations arising from the refusal to perform military service on account of one's beliefs [and] because of the unsuitable nature of the general legislation applied to his situation the applicant had run, and still ran, the risk of an interminable series of prosecutions and criminal convictions. Therefore, it considered this to be a human rights violation since taken as a whole and regard being had to its gravity and repetitive nature, the treatment inflicted on the applicant had caused him severe pain and suffering which went beyond the normal element of humiliation inherent in any criminal sentence or detention. In the aggregate, the acts concerned constituted degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3. This is a landmark decision but not a comprehensive one since the court did not necessarily ask Turkey to allow for substitute service or other alternatives. However, the pressure is now expected to increase on the government to figure out a way to deal with the situation of Mehmet Tarhan [5] who is now in jail and is reportedly receiving inhumane treatment. In summary, the situation in the "mother-land" is still behind the current European norms. Militarization is visible in all aspects of life. The "baby-land" is not expected to be very different.
Let's switch gears once more. It is sad that despite the common knowledge that there are many young men who can not return to north Cyprus and that quite a few of them deliberately choose to avoid the service, only one case of CO is recorded in the international media [1]. This means that we do not have an organized anti-militarist movement in north Cyprus that is willing to support and defend the rights of COs. Many of us are forced to give up and do the compulsory service rather than to face an exile. It is not an easy thing to accept for an individual who has anti-militarist, anti-establishment convictions. Furthermore, it could be physically harmful and dangerous.
We are able to move to the southern part of the island , administered by RoC but unfortunately, that is not a very desirable option and is taken up by a very few of us. It is undesirable because our social, political and economic rights in RoC are not guaranteed. We are effectively treated as second class citizens. For example, I have a Ph.D. in physics and I work in the academia. My plan in life is to work in an academic research insitution. The only viable option in south is to work at the University of Cyprus which on paper claims to have adapted Turkish as an offical language as well as Greek. However, on practice, good knowledge of Greek and ability to teach in Greek is required from all faculty (for example, according to job postings such as in Ref [6]). I can not vote in any local elections (as of January 2006). I can not run for any office. I can not enjoy properties of my family (as of January 2006).
At the end of the day, we are stuck (mainly) outside of our country. I read about COs in Turkey and elsewhere with envy. They are brave people who have endangered themselves. They could have choosen to live an underground life 7 or escaped to exile. Instead, they have chosen to stay, organize and increase the awareness of this crucial issue. I remember Salih Askeroglu [10,1,11] who is the latest (only?) noted case from north Cyprus and suffered in both sides of the island and was finally silenced. He did not receive any substantial support (there were exceptions, for example Ref [12]), there was no organized movement. This does not encourage us. I can not say that I am willing to do the same in north Cyprus, neither do I know of anyone else. It is a shame.
But the story does not end here. Military service is only part of picture. Our inaction demonstrated in the case of Cypriot COs is partly due to our acceptance of a militarist lifestyle, atmosphere. We need to object when a government declares a "war on something", when it jails a CO, when it insists on compulsory military service, when it carries out military exercises, when it forces students to take "National security" classes (where in case of north Cyprus, it means that a military officer comes and teaches about military ranks, formations, flags and other propaganda materials), when it forces school-children to attend military parades/exercises, when it threatens others with its military might. We should object when an organization picks up militarist rhetoric, carries out para-military training or threatens others. We should object to the militarist culture in the media, on our daily lives.
And yet, objection is not enough, we should resist.
[to be continued, hopefully]

References

[1]
Refusing to Bear Arms: A worldwide survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service: Cyprus, Report 2005 revision, Last accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.wri-irg.org/co/rtba/cyprus.htm
[2]
Military Zones in Northern Cyprus, October 5th, 1976, Official Gazette, Appendix III, "Article on Military Zones based on Military and Forbidden Zones Law", Maps from Sub-Appendices I and II. Last Accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~durduran/papers/askeriharita.pdf
[3]
Refusing to Bear Arms: A worldwide survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service: Turkey, Report 2005 revision, Last accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.wri-irg.org/co/rtba/turkey.htm
[4]
European Court of Human Rights, Chamber Judgement, Ülke v. Turkey (application no. 39437/98), Last Accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.echr.coe.int/Eng/Press/2006/Jan/Chamberjudgment\%DClkevTurkey240106.htm
[5]
Multi-lingual web-site dedicated to the struggle of conscientious objector, Mehmet Tarhan, Last Accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.mehmettarhan.com/
[6]
"Applicants must hold a Ph.D. in a relevant subject and be FLUENT IN GREEK (both requirements are mandatory by the University).", Visiting Faculty Positions, Last Accessed on January 27, 2006, http://www.eng.ucy.ac.cy/ECE/EN/Announcements/ApplicationForVisitingFaculty042005.htm
[7]
Osman Murat Ülke'nin AÏHM kararına ilişkin basın açıklaması, Last Accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.savaskarsitlari.org/arsiv.asp?ArsivTipID=8&ArsivAnaID=30865
[8]
Vedat Zencir'den Mehmet'e mektup var, Last Accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.savaskarsitlari.org/arsiv.asp?ArsivTipID=8&ArsivAnaID=30900
[9]
Interview with Mehmet Tarhan for the Spanish newspaper Diagonal, January 2005, Last Accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.wri-irg.org/news/2006/tarhaninterview-en.htm
[10]
Greeks of North & Turks of South ,by Ulus Irkad, Crossings, May 1996, Last Accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/~durduran/dergi/irkad1.htm
[11]
Refusing to Bear Arms: A worldwide survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service: Cyprus, Northern or Turkish Cyprus Report 1998, Last accessed January 27, 2006, http://www.wri-irg.org/co/rtba/archive/cyprusnorth.htm
[12]
In the `Chambers of Memory`: Neşe Yaşın, Hamamböcüleri, January 30 2005, Last Accessed January 27 2006, http://www.hamamboculeri.org/authors/svg/svg0_30_2005.html

Footnotes:

1Before I go on, "we" here is some collective form of "we" and not any particular person(s).
2Where "Nation" obviously does not mean "Cypriots" or "Citizens of Republic of Cyprus" but rather a subset of Cypriots who are mainly (1) Greek Cypriot, (2) live in the "free areas". I consider the National Guard an unconstitutional institution whose purpose include "defense" (!) against part of RoC's own population. Not only that, it is a completely unnecessary, unproductive and inefficient institution.
3I am looking forward to the day that an all emcompassing anti-militarist movement will arise in Cyprus
4Too bad the irony of the name "KaKaTeCe" - the way KKTC is pronounced - does not translate well into English (Hint: "KaKa" is "poo" and Republic of Turkey is "Türkiye Cumhuriyeti")
5Where the definition of "nation" again is quite ambigious.
6Not that a legitimate, independent T/C military would have made me feel any more sympathetic towards the forced militarization of our lives. A photo (map) is worth more than a thousand words, just look at the extent of military zones [2]
7For a beautiful insight into their thinking, see Osman Ülke's press release [7] who says that he choose to surrender to the authorities on many occasions and currently is not underground eventhough he is facing ongoing jail-sentences. Also, a letter by Vedat Zencir[8] to support Mehmet Tarhan (recent interview here [9])


File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.49.
On 27 Jan 2006, 11:15.

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