It is a constitutional and fundamental citizenship duty of every male Turkish citizen to spend some time under arms for the defense of the homeland. So far, under law, there is no exemption other than those physically or psychologically found unfit for military service by a team of military doctors.
It has been a tradition, particularly in rural Turkey, to send sons to compulsory conscription with a wedding-like festivity. In some sections of society fulfilling military service is a requirement to be considered a trustworthy man who might get married or launch his business.
Under existing laws, estranging people from undertaking compulsory military service is a very serious crime punishable with up to two years imprisonment. Even an honest confession made by the man-turned-woman actress Bülent Ersoy landed her in court in June 2008 on charges of “estranging people from military service.” Ersoy said she was grateful to God that she did not have a son, but even if she had a son she would not have sent him to military service. She was “acquitted” months later on grounds that her remark did not constitute a crime as she was just expressing her opinion.
Not everyone was as lucky as Ersoy of course and over the past many decades under that penal code provision (Article 318) many people, mostly political opponents, were condemned to lofty sentences.
It is nonsense, however, to “kill” up to two years of a young man’s life with the pretext of “sacred service to the nation,” whereas that service could be bought from professionals and the country might be afforded a far better security service by hired professional people at a much lower cost. Saying this, as well, might constitute a crime under current laws, yet, if so even the prime minister and defense minister have been committing a crime for some time.
Yet, it is obvious that the moment politicians start talking about probability of being able to buy out of compulsory military service, people start searching for ways to avoid enlisting in the military until either the probability of government indeed declaring a partially exempted paid military service, or terms [how much money needed to be deposited] of the scheme are clarified or finalized. Anyhow, parents with thicker pockets have been watching political discussions on the partially exempted paid military service like an eagle waiting for its prey. No one can blame parents for being not so enthusiastic in sending their beloved sons to military service, particularly to terror-stricken southeastern parts of the country, while consecutive governments failed to provide a civilian resolution to the problem over the past 25 years.
“My son has picked Hakkari. But he could not become a gendarmerie,” a proud Mayizer, our cleaning lady, said the other day. I quipped and unintentionally poured from my mouth the words: “Thank God, I do not have a son.” I was so ashamed of what I said, but they were my sincere feelings. Who wants his son to be a victim of terrorism?
Now the government has started floating the prospect of legislating new laws on partially exempt paid military service and on conscientious objection. With discussion continuing, young people stopped enrolling for military service and wait for the new laws.
Can we say the entire current government is criminal and should be dispatched to court on grounds of estranging people from undertaking compulsory military service?