Cyprus

In January, there were significant developments for conscientious objectors in Northern Cyprus: Conscientious objector Halil Karapasaoglu, who has repeatedly declared his refusal to perform reserve service, was put on trial and sentenced to a fine - which Halil refused to pay and was imprisoned. Meanwhile, Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus mobilised hundreds of people to support Halil - both on the streets and on social media. Halil was released following his appeal.

On 26-28 May, activists from Greece, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and Cyprus (both south and north) gathered in Nicosia (Cyprus) for a 3-day training, Gender and Countering Youth Militarisation, organised by War Resisters' International. During the training, participants explored gendered dimensions of youth militarisation within their societies as well as discussing how to work internationally to counter these processes.

My name is Erman and I was born on one side of this divided Cyprus in 1990. The division of the island started a long time before I was born, in 1974, but the roots of the division started even earlier. When we say 'division', it could refer to one of two things: the division in our mind, or the wall that separates this whole island into two.

Conscientious objector groups from the eastern Mediterranean region have recently issued a statement on the ongoing military crisis in their region. Declaring their solidarity with refugees escaping from war and repression, they made a call to the international community to pursue peaceful solutions, rather than militarised ones, for the ongoing violence in the region. “The world's reaction to the current regional violence,” the statement declares, “should be building societies, assisting refugees, and mediating between fighting parties, not selling arms, bombings and providing military assistance.”

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We are conscientious objectors from all around the eastern Mediterranean region. Our region has suffered for so long from oppression, injustice, militarisation, military occupations and wars, as well as poverty, illiteracy, hunger and lack of social infrastructure. In this difficult period, when our region seems to fall even more into the chaos of war, we raise a common voice for peace and against militarisation.

We refuse to allow this cycle of violence, initiated by oppressive states and economic interests, to continue; we refuse to be a part of it; we refuse to be enemies with people who just happen to be of a different nationality or religion; we will not be dragged into their wars and armies leading to death and destruction in the region.

Conscientious objector Haluk Selam Tufanlı has been imprisoned in northern Cyprus for refusing to undertake reserve military service. International actions were held on Tuesday 9th December 2014, in Athens, Istanbul, Nicossia and London.

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You can also protest in writing to the authorities in Northern Cyprus. Find all the details here (including an email alert): NORTHERN CYPRUS: Haluk Selam Tufanlı imprisoned

Following a meeting in Cyprus of conscientious objector and war refuser movements in the Eastern Mediterranean region at the end of January, when CO in Cyprus Murat Kanatlı (and co-organiser of the meeting in Nicosia) was imprisoned for ten days in February, solidarity actions took place in Turkey, Greece and Israel (by Druze Palestinian objectors). In Athens, activists were temporarily detained for their protest at the Turkish embassy. Watch a video of activists in Istanbul here.

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The case of Murat Kanatli, a CO in Cyprus who declared his conscientious objection in 2009 and has since refused each year to participate in the annual compulsory military exercises in the northern part of Cyprus, has been heard in the Constitutional Court.

Although the full text of the ruling has not yet been published, it appears that the Court has ruled that the unavailability of a substitute to military service constitutes an interference with the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion safeguarded in the Article 23 of the Constitution, and that the duty is upon the legislator to provide in laws and regulations for alternative service to military service. However, the Court went on to state that it does not constitute a conflict with the Constitution.

The UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, has highlighted issues with conscientious objection to military service in the Republic of Cyprus and the northern Turkish-administered region.

In the south, substitute service for conscientious objectors is between three and five months longer than military service. According to international standards, substitute service required of conscientious objectors in lieu of compulsory military service must be compatible not be punitive in nature (UN Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/77, OP4.) - this includes the duration of substitute service.

In the north – the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – the right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised.

Human Rights Council, Twenty-second session, Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt: Addendum - Mission to Cyprus

A/HRC/22/51/Add.1

Find the full report on the website of the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights here.

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