Disabled Turkish men to serve symbolic one-day military duty
ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
AA photoA total of 150 young disabled Turkish men are set to serve a symbolic one-day military duty on May 13, after which they will be handed their discharge papers as part of events organized around “Disabilities Week.”
The symbolic ceremony has been held annually since 2009 to mark a special week for persons with disabilities in Turkey. Persons with disabilities are not eligible to participate in the country’s mandatory military service.
“He had always dreamed for doing his military service; now his dreams will come true,” said the mother of a young disabled man who is ready to become a real soldier – at least for one day.
Murat Demirtaş, 24, who has both physical and mental disabilities, attends a special school for the disabled in Istanbul’s Beykoz district in the city’s Anatolian side.
“Since early childhood, Murat has desperately wanted to be a soldier,” his mother, Nilgün, said. “He always cried when he saw the photos of his brother serving in his military uniform.”
Unlike most European countries, Turkey maintains compulsory military service for men and the right to conscientious objection is not recognized.
Many young men celebrate with their families and friends before leaving to serve in the country’s military.
Ersin Algül, a 32-year-old man with a split spine, says he has mixed feelings about his one-day duty.
“I feel sorry for our soldiers in the southeastern region,” he said, referring to ongoing clashes between Turkish security forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “But I am also happy because I will wear a military uniform for the first time,” he added.
It is normally impossible for Ersin to serve in the army, as his serious condition leaves the nerves in his back without any protection.
Faruk Okka, 27, who has a mental disability, admits to being “worried” about his upcoming service.
In his regular life, he attends a music group in the city’s Sultanbeyli district twice a week and has to stay at home the rest of the time.
Emine Yağlı, a teacher at one of the municipality’s schools for the disabled, told state-run Anadolu Agency that they aimed to demonstrate to students that there were no insurmountable obstacles in life.