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Asylum for conscientious objectors and deserters. Rallye in Münster/W. 2004

Conscientious Objection and Asylum

(15.05.2021) In the 1990s, several hundred conscripts from Turkey applied for asylum in Germany and other countries. They went public with their conscientious objection, made it clear in front of the Turkish consulate, at press conferences or on other occasions that they were not willing to serve in the Turkish military, especially in protest against the war then waged in southeast Turkey. In many cases, their applications were initially rejected by the authorities. In some cases, they actually succeeded in obtaining protection under refugee law. Quite often this outcome derived from the fact that they had to expect additional criminal prosecution because of their public conscientious objection.

Military parade in Turkey, © Timo Vogt

Turkey: My experiences in the barracks

(15.05.2021) The history of conscription is a history of militarisation. It is a breathtaking story. And conscription is still effective today in countries like Turkey.

I was to be forced to comply with military orders. When I refused, I was beaten and insulted. I was arrested four times and released each time. Each time after release I was transferred to the barracks again. In total, I spent 18 months in the military prison.

Military parade in Turkey, © Timo Vogt

Turkey: I refuse!

(15.05.2021) I will start with the first day when I was 19 years old. I was sitting in the garden and got a visit from a talkative friend. He told me that we had to show up for the physical examination. I told him, “I won’t go to the military, you can go.” I can’t explain why I wanted to refuse even then, but there was always a voice inside me telling me that something couldn’t be right with the military service.

My friend was stunned and said, “Rebel against the state! They will make you disappear! Where will you go?” He said many foolish things when I talked back at him. At last he turned to my mother and said, “Aunty, you would also be in trouble, they will pressure you to deny help and support to a criminal.”

Conscientious objection action 2014 in Istanbul. Militarism kills. Photo: Vicdani Ret Derneği

History of Conscientious Objection in Turkey

(15.05.2021) The struggle for conscientious objection in Turkey started with Tayfun Gönül’s declaration on 6th of December 1989 and Vedat Zencir’s declaration on 6th of February 1990, both publıshed in Sokak (a magazine called ‘Street’).1 These actions – of two Turkish individuals coming out and declaring “I will not join the military”, and standing against all policies of violence, conflict and war – were extremely important. During this period massacres, deployment of unknown assailants, and torture were common means of a state policy carried out within a “homeland-nation” discourse.