Once again we collect the stories for CO-Update, and once again we see small steps towards the recognition of the right to conscientious objection in some countries, as others fall prey to greater militarisation. Despite significant steps forward in favour of CO's Colombia, we see the ongoing need for resistance to militarism. Similarly, despite recognition of the right to CO in Belarus, CO's continue to fear conscription.
In early September, Conscientious Objectors from across the world gathered in Istanbul for a CO Symposium. As violence of the Turkish state military against the Kurdish community in Turkey increases, CO's gathered to discuss their objection to war and it's causes, before making public declarations of their objection in Galatasaray Square. For a full report, click here.
HDP submits CO law to parliament
In Turkey, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have submitted a law to the Turkish parliament, proposing that Turkey acknowledges the right to conscientious objection. HDP joined the parliament in Turkey in the most recent round of elections in June 2015, when the ruling AKP lost their parliamentary majority. Turkey does not currently recognise the right to conscientious objection, and people who declare conscientious objection are.... In 2011, the Turkish Ministry of Justice announced a draft proposal that would legalise conscientious objection, following pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, but the draft was withdrawn.
The proposed law would allow CO's to work for any public institution, NGO, or other organisation working in the public interest. CO's would be paid, covered by welfare benefits and social security, and not be discriminated against.
Two CO's killed in attack
On 20 July, an attack against civilians in the southern Turkish town of Suruç killed dozens of people. Conscientious objectors Alper Sapan and Polen Ünlü were amongst those killed. WRI affiliate Vicdani Ret Derneği have released a statement that includes Polen and Alper's CO declarations, which we quote here:
“I don’t want my brothers, my sisters and the people that I love to be a part of that dirty war which has been implemented by the state. That war does not murder only men, but it murders women as well. For this reason, I am declaring my conscientious objection.” (Polen Ünlü)
“For the world where there is no war, no nation, no border; for freedom, I am listening to my heart and rejecting the military service. Let’s destroy militarism before militarism destroys all of us.” (Alper Sapan)
Read more here.
For more information, see: Hurriyet Daily News, August 2015, "HDP proposes law on conscientious objection", http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/hdp-proposes-law-on-conscientious-objection.aspx?pageID=238&nID=86549&NewsCatID=339
On 18th June, the Ukrainian military began it's sixth wave of conscription. This follows several other conscription 'waves' aimed at increasing the Ukrainian military by 50,000 people – a process that has only been 50% successful, with many desertions, and people travelling to work abroad to avoid conscription. Peter Mehed, the Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister said that further waves of conscription could take place if the military did not reach it's target this time.
The government of Taiwan has again post-poned plans to end conscription, because 'recruitment targets could not be met'. The Taiwanese military had originally planned to end conscription for those born after 1 January 1994 on the 1st January 2016, but this will now be moved back until at least the end of the year. The government delayed plans to move to an 'all volunteer' military in September 2013.
At the end of July, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad announced an amnesty for Syrian men who have previously evaded conscription to the military – an offence punishable by imprisonment or, in some cases, death. After four years of war the Syrian military's ranks are depleted, with some estimating that, due to deaths and defections the size of the military has been halved since 2011. Defectors now abroad have two months to return, those still inside Syria have one month – there were no details given for draft evaders.
On the 11th August, the President of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambaev, signed amendments into the law on Military Duties For Kyrgyz Citizens that allowed for some 'officially recognised' religious groups to avoid military service. The religious group must reject military service, and the CO must pay a fee of 18-20,000 soms ($285-300).
For more information, see: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 'Conscientious Objectors in Kyrgyzstan allowed to avoid military service', August 2015: http://www.rferl.org/content/kyrgyzstan-conscientious-objectors/27183276.html
There are reports that conscription could return to South Africa in 2016 – there has been no conscription in the country since 1994, when the first multi-racial elections took place. According to 'City Press', plans are being finalised for a youth programme that would see young people over the age of 18 sent for military training. According to the website BusinessTech, the ANC-led South African government has claimed that the programme is designed to “combat youth unemployment, instill discipline, patriotism and volunteerism.”
For more information, see News24.com, 'The SA Army wants you(th)', July 2015: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/The-SA-army-wants-youth-20150725
Businesstech.co.za, 'Army conscription may return to South Africa: report', July 2015, http://businesstech.co.za/news/general/94301/army-conscription-may-return-in-south-africa-report/
A conscientious objector to military service in Belarus has been threatened with conscription, Forum 18 News Service has learned, even though President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 4 June signed into law an Alternative Service Law. But on 11 June Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Dmitry Chorba, from Rechitsa in Gomel Region, had a case under Criminal Code Article 435, Part 1 ("Refusal of call-up to military service") filed against him by the local Military Conscription Office. Although it appears that the case has been closed he fears a renewed call-up in the Autumn.
For more information, see Forum18.org, 'BELARUS: Conscientious objector threatened with conscription', July 2015: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2083
The National Assembly of Conscientious Objectors in Colombia have released a statement criticising the ongoing use of 'batida' raids, despite the practise being declared illegal by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Arrest (Opinion 8/08) and the Constitutional Court in Sentences. The statement insists that the practise is stopped, along with any other form of forced recruitment into the Colombian military, and calls for solutions to conflict “different to the fratricidal war that has written Colombian history”.
We're excited to announce the launch of a new book on conscientious objection (CO), written by and for CO movements worldwide. Learning from the lived experience of activists, the aim is to help movements work together, surmount the external challenges they face, and enhance the concept of conscientious objection. The book is almost ready to go – but we need your help to get it printed! The book will be available for free online, but we’d also like to make printed copies, especially for those activists who don’t have safe access to the internet. That’s why we’ve made this crowdfunder. If you support this crowdfunder, you’ll receive your own copy of the book, and if you give a little more, we’ll also send a copy to a CO movement. Please share this crowdfunder widely so others can do the same. Thank you.