On Saturday (16 May), pacifists gathered in front of the military leisure centre in Harbiye, central Istanbul, to mark International Day of Conscientious Objection.
In a press statement, they said that Turkey was violating the international conventions it is signatory to, as well as case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), by forcing people to wear uniforms.
Among those shouting slogans such as "We will not kill, we will not die, we will not be anyone's soldiers" and "Object, resist, say no, do not go to the military" was Kenan Polat, whose son Murat Polat was killed by torture in an Adana military prison while doing his military service. The defendants in that case have mostly been released.
Speaking to bianet, Polat said that he was determined to take the case as far as the ECHR.
Prior to the press statement, 28-year-old Hakan Filizbay announced his objection to military service on philosophical grounds. Gizem Altınordu also spoke, saying, "Whenever a friend of mine goes to the army, so do I, and whenever one objects, so do I."
Conscientious objector Halil Savda read the press statement in the name of the pacifists. He said that there had been over 70 cases of conscientious objection in Turkey in the last twenty years, and that there were around 500,000 people more evading military service.
"Civilian death" continues
Savda pointed out that the Turkish government, convicted by the ECHR in the case of objector Osman Murat Ülke, had still not followed the conditions of the decree.
In the ECHR's decree of 2006, the court said that Turkey was condemning conscientious objectors to "civilian death" by trying them in military courts and not offering any legal amendments to accommodate them. Turkey later promised the Council of Europe that it would prevent the violence and trials that objectors faced.
The protesters also decried the fact that Article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code, concerned with "alienating the public from military service", was not being reconsidered.
War for profit
Savda further drew attention to the links between war and capitalism, saying that a total of 1.2 trillion dollars had been spent on war worldwide in the last year, and that Obama's administration had increased its war budget to 664 billion dollars for this year, 130 billion of which were reserved for "overseas operations."
He added that there were around 250 weapons companies of Turkish origin.
The protesters expressed their solidarity with conscientious objectors, and denounced the oppression and torture they faced for their decision. (TK/AG)