Turkey: Ban WRI website to solve conscientious objection problem

In an article published in the paper Stratejik Arastirmalar Dergisi No 8 of September 2006, a major of the Turkish military recommended to close down several websites promoting the right to conscientious objection, among them savaskarsitlari.org and wri-irg.org, the website of War Resisters' International. The article, titled "Turkey and the practice of conscientious objection" first gives an overview of conscientious objection in Europe, and then goes on to look at the situation in Turkey. The author complains that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Turkish conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke is being used to make propaganda against conscription in Turkey. He writes: "Some non-governmental organizations contribute to this propaganda in one way or another. These organizations (e.g., Protestant Association for the Care of Conscientous Objectors, War Resisters International, European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, and so on) create publicity through their websites and international conferences, and could sometimes exert considerable influence on EU policies."

The author then goes on to claim that many conscientious objectors object for selfish reasons, "and that they are influenced by the culture and propaganda of foreign countries. It is therefore significant to take the proper measures in order to protect the youth from negative propaganda, and to inform our citizens adequately. Otherwise, the lack of proper information is highly likely to be exploited by individuals and organizations acting in bad faith."

The author claims that conscientious objection is "at odds" with Turkish culture. "As is well known, the mores and customs are among the unwritten sources of the law. Our positive law is also inevitably informed and influenced by our own culture. While conscientious objection might be acceptable to European culture, there is no doubt that it is at odds with our own cultural practices according to which, for instance, military service is conventionally considered to be a precondition for marriage, or mothers do not bless their sons unless they perform the service."

He then comes to the following conclusions, which we reproduce here in full:

"Several considerations follow from the above remarks:

a. Due to the increasing need for security, imposed upon us both by the geostrategical position as well as the current conditions of our country, also due to our cultural traditions, and as long as there exist threats to our internal and external security, it would not be appropriate to enact legislation acknowledging conscientious objection.

b. The acknowledgement of conscientious objection as a legally enacted right sould be considered only when our security needs become considerably less demanding. In such a case, the period and regulation of alternative service should be neither so short as to encourage nor so long and painful as to allow lawsuits against Turkey.

c. Taking into account the fact that conscientious objectors make effective use of the internet for their own purposes, in order to inform the public opinion properly the General Staff could consider to prepare a relevant section in its official website and register it in major search engines (e.g., www.google.com, www.alta-vista.com, etc.).

d. Legal steps should be taken to ban the websites promoting negative propaganda - beginning with those which exploit the title of the General Staff, such as “www.tsk-genelkurmay.com” and “www.genel-kurmay.com”, but also including “www.savaskarsitlari.org”, “www.wri-irg.org”, “www.mehmettarhan.com” and www.kurdishinfo.com .

e. Furthermore, the “National Security” classes offered in high schools could be properly put into use so as to protect the youth from the negative propaganda pertinent to conscientious objection.

f. Finally, it would be helpful to participate in the conferences held by foreign NGOs with a view to conveying our theses to the European public and underscoring the fact that the security-related needs and conditions of Turkey are not the same as other countries."

It seems at least some of the websites mentioned above are now defunct.

Source: Mu. Kur. Bnb. Ersin KAYA, “Vicdani Ret Uygulamasi ve Turkiye”, Stratejik Arastirmalar Dergisi, No. 8 (September 2006), pp. 35-42