Support Turkish conscientious objectors

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To the press and the public;

While the society is being tried to be made more hostile within each other day by day with the militarist and nationalist speeches that have increased after the termination of the solution process, the militarist pressure on the society is now changing shape. In these days when the militarist language is becoming dominant, the pressure on the society doesn’t remain as just words. In this context; the provisions of the law which have been in force for years but have never been applied in practice, have started to being put into practice.

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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International peace organisations, including War Resisters' International, are appealing to the European Union to not lose sight of the situation in Turkey. The renewed war in south-east Turkey is taking place largely away from the attention of the international public: instead terrorist attacks, the war in Syria, and the refugee issue dominate the agenda. But in the face of violence and human rights violations in the war between the Turkish government and PKK regions, we demand that European politicians no longer look away. For that purpose, we have created a petition directed at the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Federica Mogherini. Join us in our appeal here.

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ONUR EREM / @onurerem - BİRGÜN NEWSPAPER

Turkish courts have released the detailed ruling against Yannis Vasilis Yaylali, a conscientious objector from Turkey who was convicted for violating a highly controversial penal code, Article 318 – “alienating public from military service”. The details show that Turkish courts are having a go at philosophy in order to sentence Yaylali to 7 months and 15 days in prison. The court simply argued that Yaylali’s thoughts are not real thoughts, thus he can’t benefit from freedom of thought!

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.

On 6 January 2016, conscientious objector Yannis Vasilis Yaylali was sentenced to 7 months and 15 days of prison penalty, for his articles that defend conscientious objection and oppose the war going on in Kurdish regions. The custodial sentence can only begin after the decision of court of appeal, so he is not in prison yet. He was found guilty of flouting the infamous Article 318 of the Turkish penal code: alienating people from military service. He has two more prosecutions with the same accusation.

Yannis made a statement after the decision:

"Article 318 was rarely used in the last years, until the war began again last year. The state is increasing its pressure to all war resisters, anti-militarists and conscientious objectors in the times of war. They're trying to silence us but we won't give in."

Conscientious Objector Mehmet Tarhan was detained in Aydın province and then was released on probation. Tarhan commented: “Civil death started for me.”

Conscientious Objector and LGBTI activist Mehmet Tarhan was detained in Aydın province and then released.

Tarhan talked to bianet that he was placed a charge of being deserter in March 2015 and a warrant was issued.

Tarhan was taken to prosecution and then to recruiting office in Aydın province in Aegean Region of Turkey:

“They granted me two days to be enlisted and then released me in the recruiting office. It means the time of “civil death” started for me.

Vicdani Ret Derneği, the Turkish CO Association, held an international symposium on conscientious objection (CO), on 5-6 September in Istanbul. The meetings were packed, and at the end of the symposium, over 20 COs went to Galatasaray Square and publicly declared their conscientious objection.


Statement from WRI affiliate Vicdani Ret Derneği

On 20th of July, many young people from different cities took the road for the re-construction of Kobanê which is the city that has been resisting against the attacks of ISIS for several months. Those young people wanted to re-build the city which was destroyed by war and bring life back to the children who are sentenced to death in the pillaged land.

But they could not success. Everlasting war policy turned to a bomb and exploded right at the middle of the crowd of young people who were resisting to build the peace. Tens of people lost their lives and hundreds of them were injured.

One of those young people who had lost her life is Polen Ünlü who declared her conscientious objection in 2012 by saying “That war does not murder only men, but it murders women as well.” Alper Sapan is also one of those young people who had murdered in the massacre, and also one of conscientious objectors who declared his conscientious objection in May 2014 by saying “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.”

Yesterday's 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. In solidarity and respect, we share news from WRI member Merve Arkun:

Two of our CO friends were murdered by a suicide bomb attack that has happened in Pirsus (Suruç, Urfa, Turkey), today.

More than 31 people travelling to Kobanê to support resistance against ISIS have died. At least 100 were heavily wounded.

Here is his Alper Sapan's CO declaration:
I am Alper Sapan. I am an anarchist who 19 years old. I am against the injustice, exploitation and oppression of the state. I am rejecting violence and the state. I am listening to the voice of my conscience and objecting the military system for a world that no borders, no wars and no nations. I will not die, I will not kill for anybody and will not be anybody's soldier.

Before militarism ends our lives let's end militarism.

Information about Polen Ünlü is still being translated into English. You can find information in Turkish here.

via Vicdani Ret Derneği (Conscientious Objection Association)

A military court in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas has sentenced conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan, to 15 months in jail. The verdict was transformed to a fine of 9,000 Turkish Liras, for “failing to obey orders.” Mehmet is appealing the verdict Mehmet's struggle against the Turkish military has been running for over a decade.

The verdict disregards a previous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in which they found on a violation of article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and in addition of article 3 (prohibition of torture or inhuman treatment) of the Convention. The Court ruled that the heavy criminal sanctions imposed on those who did not comply with compulsory military service did not strike a proper balance between the general interest of society and that of conscientious objectors.

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