In countries where military service is compulsory and understood and fulfilled as a “national duty” and where there is no social opposition, it is really hard for anyone to declare “I want to use my right to not to be armed”, especially when you are a homosexual.
In Turkey, men are held “exempt” from the compulsory military service, which would take from six to twelve months, on two cases: The first one is having an illness or disability and the second is being gay. Of course it is same to be in the army as a disabled, ill person or as a gay. The army needs ‘real, tough’ men rather then ‘soft’ ones.
If you are a gay please do not join the army. But please prove us that you are one. Send the photographs taken during your sexual intercourse with you partner(s) to our military doctors so that we can see with our own eyes and archive!!! And of course our doctors should make an anal examination!!!
An ordinary citizen doesn’t have a right to refuse the military obligation and the ones who confess that they are gays are humiliated. It’s demanded that their private, sexual lives be photographed and filed in the army archive. Millions of men spend some time in the army in their most important and productive years of their lives. In order to not to go, some continue their education. Some cannot find job because they could not finish their national job, some cannot marry, and some escape and some go to the army’s embracing arms because they do not want to face the problems above. Some go and can never come back home, some come back but lost their senses. It is really hard to say something in such a system.
In Turkey, as a country that signed the European Convention of Human Rights, conscientious objection is necessary; however there is still neither a domestic law about conscientious objection nor a civilian alternative to military service.
In a country like ours which has lots of coup d’etat in its short history, it’s also hard to deny military service compulsion. A nation whose army is such valuable, it is extremely risky to declare “national mission” refusal. Our men have to be armed! There is the danger of Cyprus, Aegean Islands, and Kurdish threat! Our men have to be armed so that we can be ready for every potential threat!
In the midst of such a political atmosphere, while thousands of young men either go to military involuntarily or escape and not conceal their problems, some brave young ones declare their total conscientious objection. One of them, Mehmet Tarhan, is also a gay activist, anarchist, and an anti-militarist. He is in jail now.
It is not easy to be a homosexual in Turkey, just like in many other parts of the world. But being a gay conscientious objector and making it public is a huge risk taking. As such, his courage should be greatly appreciated.
He is in military jail since April 8th, and has been on hunger strike two times. He is sentenced to four years for “refusing orders in front of the [military] unit”. He is threatened and beaten even in front of his lawyer many times.
Judge wants him to accept exemption from military service due to his sexual orientation, or rather deviation, and as military considers homosexuality as a “rotten” illness; Mehmet Tarhan refuses this “right”. He is seeking for his right in European Courts now.
There are thousands of men in Turkey who try to escape from military service but do not make it public. As long as they won’t express themselves, Mehmet Tarhan will have to stay as a marginal example.