Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi

Soldier’s Rights, Citizen’s Rights

Posted on: 13/12/2012

e kürkçüThe article written by our Mersin MP Ertuğrul Kürkçü, published at the daily Özgür Gündem:

Soldier’s Rights, Citizen’s Rights …

Debates on military service has recently revived again upon a report that the Soldiers’ Rights Platform published about the Violations of Rights during the Obligatory Military Service. The live testimonies in the report showed to the public the physical and moral cruelty imposed by the militarist state on the children of these lands in order to supposedly discipline them and to turn them into lead soldiers who obey without questioning.

Soldiers’ Rights Platform should be appreciated for revealing such a report which is not always easy to do and requires courage to accomplish. Thus, for the first time, from a source that is independent from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), we can get the systematic information on how the young men who are recruited in the army are treated and how their human rights are violated as the testimonies in the report show.

Among the violations that the report mentions are: insulting, beating, forcing for excessive physical activity, insufficient health care, disproportionate penalties, abusing soldiers for the personal work of seniors, enforcing sleep deprivation, and favoritism. As a result of these violations, the main consequences are: Suicide, loss of mental health, permanent physical damage.

Even though the report draws the public attention to the soldiers’ struggle for rights, we cannot disregard the fact that there are serious constraints due to the methodology and serious flaws that occurred inevitably because of the platform’s political, cultural, ideological orientation and consensus.

The actual material of the report is the 436 letters of complaint that were sent to the platform’s website between the dates April 25, 2011 and April 24, 2012. The report acquires a map of violations by classifying the complaints according to where they were sent from and the type of the complaint. However, this is a map of complaints more than a map of violations. The places that the most of the complaints are sent from may not be the places of the most intense violations. The fact that the majority of the complaints were sent from Ankara more than from the cities that recruit training troops, or from Kurdistan which is the very intense region in terms of military training and activity, is a tentative indication in this direction.

On the other hand, that the report limits itself with the cases that were sent to the website creates a situation where the results of infamous examples of violation remain ambiguous in the public sphere. That the report does not attempt a matching in this regard increases this ambiguity all the more. For example, the report states that within last year on the website, about 40 applications has been submitted, involving the cases such as considering to commit suicide, attempting to commit suicide, witnessing suicide, deeming doubtful the deaths which are announced to be suicide.However, the report does not relate this to the numbers given in the National Defence Ministry’s response to BDP’s Kars deputy Mülkiye Birtane’s query: Minister of National Defence İsmet Yılmaz stated that in the last two and a half years 252 cases of deaths took place in barracks, 175 of them were recorded as suicide. The motion stated that 408 soldiers died suspiciously between 2005-2010, and there it is also asked as to what took place in the barracks since 2010.

Lacking the concrete evidence that could reveal the awfully high number of suicides, the report seems to have hardly managed its supposed task of warning regarding the severity of the several violations of rights.
In the report, we see that two specific types of violation which concerns the public a lot and one negative result were not included.

The report in no way mentions the violations of sexual orientation freedom, which directly concerns LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual] individuals and as well as the treatment exposed to the people who encountered those kinds of violations.This omission can be attributed, to a great extent, to the political and cultural preferences of the people who filed the report. Just as the reporters didn’t bother to find those violations, the victim of those violations may have hesitated to reach that platform.

And secondly, the report didn’t include the victims of national and conscientious discrimination, which is one of the most widespread complaints. This type of discrimination is not put into a context of violations.The report didn’t include the cases that Kurdish and Alevi young men frequently encounter such as exclusion, insult, being loaded with tasks that are hard and even impossible to endure, beating, killing.

And finally the report does not recognize the exposure to post-traumatic stress disorder in the violences category, which is one of the mostly seen complaints after the military service.

The report is also interesting for being on the current government’s side. It says that TSK is the only responsible for the practises in TSK and tends to refrain from making any suggestions about obligatory military duty in order not to damage the existing mutual agreement between the government and TSK.This is how the report gets away from Conscientious Objection Movement (and also the acquisitions of the movement) which has been defending for 20 years that the ultimate way to eliminate the bad consequences of obligatory military duty is to abolish conscription and recognize the right of conscientious objection.

However, military service in Turkey, contrary to common belief, is not a constitutional obligation. In other words, the constitution does not codify military service as – compulsory or voluntary- a duty of citizenship.
Article 72 of the Constitution includes ‘national service’ among citizens’ duties: “National service is a right and duty of every Turk. The manner in which this service shall be performed, or considered as performed, either in the Armed Forces or in the public services, shall be regulated by law.”

Let alone its discourse which considers every citizen as Turk, we can see that what the Constitution regards as duty is not military service but ‘national service’.Although the Constitution points the public sector besides the military for its citizens to perform the ‘national service,’ for now this is another issue to consider. What we have to understand is that the Constitution does not oblige any citizen to serve in the army.

Compulsory military service has its legal basis on the Military Law No. 1111. According to the 1st article of the law that dates back to 1927: “Every male national of the Republic of Turkey is obliged to perform his military service in accordance with this law.”

The spirit of this law is out-dated simply because it was prepared and by the Turkish Military Forces and imposed upon the Parliament. This is a law that is based on an imagination which regards the Citizen as male and soldier and that is revived by the delusion of a world of eternal war surrounded by enemies. In the presence of a libertarian political will in the Parliament, this corrupt law can easily be thrown in the dustbin of history. There exists no institutional barriers to a government that could imprison each one of the 10 generals of the armed forces. Unless this government, too, has venom of militarism circulating in its blood.

Mehmet Metiner’s attitude in a discussion during Platform’s visit to the Human Rights Commission reflects the presence of this venom in AKP’s veins. When we suggested that independent of whether military service is compulsory or not, according to the article 6 of European Convention of Human Rights, soldiers should have the opportunity to defend their rights via collective bargaining organizations and trade unions founded by themselves, and it is a requirement of a democratic system that soldiers defend their own rights directly, not through intermediaries; Metiner responded in such a militaristic manner that even a soldier cannot claim: “Such crazy proposals do not fit to our traditions. They can happen, only if when we become Holland.”

How compatible these remarks with Kenan Evren’s understanding of freedom. He once said: “Communist Party can be founded when our income per person reaches 10 thousand dollars.”

When you separate soldier’s right from that of citizen’s, you would have neither of them. The tension between these two diminishes only when the state does no longer belong to the dominant class. And when the state stops being a state, we would not need a soldier or an army. Until then, we will keep asking for “the right to conscientious objection” and right to trade union for workers in uniform. This is the only effective way to protect children of the people from the cruel militarists.

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