We learnt some very useful information today, and I will share it here since not many people were present:
- You can definitely avoid the normal military service if you are a conscientious objector. There are two issues with that though. Firstly, it is quite a long procedure and one has to do some time before the day he has to go to the army, at specific dates that the government announces. Secondly, it is almost guaranteed that you will have to do the “alternative” military service which is 32 months and it could be either at a government’s institute e.g.Forestkeeping or even at a military camp.
- There was no case of total objectors in either north or southCyprus, mainly because no one has dared to go through such a procedure. In the discussion we were told that a person tried to declare himself a total objector but the military just allowed him to be free of army obligations but not recognizing him as a total objector, rather giving him a “sick” paper.
- The EBCO can and will pressurize for the “alternative” military service to become shorter (equal to the normal service) and non-punitive. The issue is that people who are now doing the alternative service have to speak up and write about their problems so that there are examples that EBCO could use to achieve something.
- We also learnt about the case of Murat Kanatli who is on trial for refusing to take part in mandatory annual military exercises since 2009.
Basically there is not much someone can do TODAY to avoid the military service. What we must do is begin talking about our right to refuse the army, and make things like conscientious objection and total objection seem normal rather than extremes. We must also speak up against the ridiculous “alternative” military service, especially people who are in it now. Total objection is nothing we don’t have experience with but it might be time that we demand this right.