Message to the demonstration supporting refusenik Halil Savda
by Payday, 21 December 2006



Right: Mehmet Tarhan reading Payday's message to the Istanbul demonstration

Dear sisters and brothers,


We are writing in support of Kurdish conscientious objector (CO) Halil Savda on trial before the Military Tribunal in Çorlu, Turkey on 22 December. 


Osman Murat Ǖlke, Mehmet Tarhan, Halil Savda and other COs in Turkey have planned and publicized their opposition to the draft, and paid a high price for their refusal – persecution, imprisonment, impoverishment and psychological and physical torture.  Even when released from jail, they face what the European Court of Human Rights defined as “civil death” – continuously at risk of arrest, unable to get ID, passport, travel documents, all the papers needed to open a bank account, get a legal job, etc. – clearly the government and military attempt to freeze them out of getting on with their daily life.  We cannot allow this to continue. Conscientious objectors’ courage and determination is a tremendous contribution to the international anti-war movement and strengthens all of us. 


At the same time the power to refuse the warmongers of COs and of everyone is strengthened by the refusal of those who join the military and then find they must refuse to kill.  To name just a few to date: Stephen Funk, the first US soldier who publicly refused to go to Iraq and called on others to do the same, for which “crime” he spent five months in jail; Camilo Mejia, jailed for seven months for refusing to return to Iraq after spending eight months there and more than seven years in the US army; Ehren Watada, the first US commissioned officer to refuse to fight in Iraq, facing court martial in February; Malcolm Kendall-Smith, RAF medical officer, deprived of his liberty for eight months for refusing to fight in Iraq; Ben Griffin, British SAS soldier who resigned from the army declaring that he hadn’t enrolled to enforce US foreign policy.  In Israel, alongside hundreds of teenage women and men refusing conscription into the army, many of them imprisoned for it, thousands more have refused to fight in the Occupied Territories or to enrol when they are recalled.


In fact, visible refuseniks are just the tip of an immense anti-militaristic iceberg. Thousands of US, UK and other troops have deserted from Iraq and Afghanistan. Up to 500,000 have dodged conscription in Turkey and no one knows how many are Kurdish who refuse to kill, maim and torture their own people. Only 11% of those eligible to be drafted are in the army in Russia.  Globally people abscond, declare or fake illness, escape to other countries, go underground – invisibly but effectively undermining the power of the military by depriving it of its central resource. 


Behind all these men there is almost invariably a support network made up first of all of women.  Some of them we know: Emine and Hattice Tarhan, Mehmet’s sister and mother; Carolyn Ho, Ehren Watada’s mother, and Rosa Watada, his stepmother; Gloria Pacis and Caitlin Funk, Stephen’s mother and sister; Maritza and Norma Castillo, mother and aunt of Camilo Mejia - to name just a few.  Mothers of the disappeared in Turkey and other Kurdish mothers have long campaigned for an end to war working to join together with the mothers of soldiers.  Many more such women remain invisible, but we in the anti-war movement all benefit greatly from their support and activism.


Sisters and brothers, we cannot physically be with you at this demonstration or at the trial of Halil Savda, but we are publicizing the campaign to free him in any way we can. The military and government in Turkey must know that the world is watching.  We urge everyone to defend Halil Savda and the other COs in Turkey, who in putting their lives on the line are challenging political repression in Turkey generally.  Across the world we need their strength and determination to defend our human rights: to conscientious objection, to refuse to kill, to live in a world free of war and dictatorship, a world which – as our sisters in the Global Women’s Strike say – invests in caring not killing,


Refusing to kill is not a crime!  Free Halil Savda!  Stop the persecution of COs!  Restore human rights to COs who suffer civil death! 


Payday an international network of anti-war men working with the Global Women’s Strike