In January of 1995, I began working as a civil servant in Diyarbakır, Lice. I was around 16-17 years old and I didn’t know much about what was going on. I heard some stuff from news papers, daily talks and some agitation efforts but I didn’t have a clear idea. I had no idea about what was going on in the Southeast [of Turkey] or what war meant. My first trip to Diyarbakır was very interesting, I went in there after passing through three or four police stations similar to border patrol, it was like going into an internal country. The first day I got there, I couldn’t get back to Diyarbakır. And I realized, “my God, this place is something else!” I couldn’t go out that night, the city was burnt and destroyed, it still hadn’t closed its wounds.
That kid was wounded for nothing. He was wounded badly and was left crippled. We heard about news like this, almost every month. I felt it very close to me. I connected it directly to the concept of the army and just like I was to claim later, I began seeing the military as the true cause of all wars. there and then I took a decisive stance: I shall not be a part of this institution no matter what. An after that I refused everything from doing expert work at court to accepting the military’s protection. I was using civilian vehicles with no protection and I was not riding official vehicles. If you take an official vehicle then you have to have a panzer tank [armored vehicle] with you. So I stopped going to Diyarbakır because of this, so as not to be in the convoy. You go into BTRs [t.n.:Bronyetransporter- Russian type armored vehicle] and you become a part of it all. Thus I decided to cut all my ties with the army.
Interestingly I ended up working on the military service health inspection committee for a period and I had not showed up for my own inspection yet. The Committee convened for three days and throughout that time only disabled people showed up, I don’t remember one person without a health problem. Disabled people took their transfer to the hospital and left. People looked for all kinds of reasons to evade service. But for instance flat-footedness had recently been taken off from the list of conditions that granted you exemption. A lot of people came in because they thought a flat foot was still reason for exemption. At the end of the first day of inspection, people came in cringing “please transfer me to the hospital.” There were countless reasons to be exempt from service. They were humiliated there already: they were asked to take all their clothes and taken in naked, had their feet wetted and made to stand on paper. This was rutine practice. A lot of people witnessed this stuff.
I was touched by the uneasiness on the people’s faces, even some of those who claimed they would willingly and lovingly do military service, experienced that fear there. The writing of the letter K in red ink next to somebody’s name meant, they were of good size and composure etc., and therefore fit to be a commando. So I became familiar with the psychology of going to do military service and I decided not to go.
Life is very deceiving; it gives you too many opportunities to “become a man,” in order to become a man you need to have a steady job etc., and for this you need to get a document which says you have no relationship with military service [meaning- you have done your military service- or are legally exempt from it]. If I were to take that report, I would have put into question everything I solved through struggling with myself and normalized. And I would have to go there and state with my own mouth that being gay is a sickness. This felt incredibly humiliating to me. On the other hand, you are not only humiliating yourself but you will have also provided a pretext for many people after you to humiliate themselves and you will be carrying that responsibility. When you tell people what you have done, others will choose this as an option and end up exalting the military, exalting social masculinity, heterosexism and humiliating themselves. They will carry this with them until the end of their lives. Thinking of all these made me decide not to go.
This kind of attitude is something that we need to develop more. This is what life taught me: ok, I am Kurdish, I am gay, thus I am many things that should not exist in this country. I am very far from being the “white Turk” that speaks of a life of comfort and I am far removed from the structure of masculinity. I know I could easily become a prime minister. How would I do that? I would not speak my mother tongue (Actually I still can’t. I understand it a little.) I would just have to yell “How happy is the one who is a Turk!” [t.n.: famous saying by Atatürk the founder of the modern day Turkish Republic] I could become a gay prime minister too. And maybe there have been gay prime ministers that I don’t know of.
All I would have to do would be to hide my sexual orientation, relegate it to the bedroom, be ashamed of it, or even try to rehabilitate it, or just imitate heterosexual individuals that are offered to me as being what is “proper” and emulate them, which is tantamount to continiously torturing myself. What was right for me was to develop that childish attitude and I did develop it. I don’t care, I don’t want to be a prime minister anyway, no I don’t want to be a government employee either, thank you. Getting a regular monthly wage will not bring me all that much. I do not want any of the things offered to me by this militaristic, sexist and patriarchal structure that brings me all this repression. For I really believe that people die hard, and for me the purpose of life is living, one of the major purposes in life is survival. And there are many ways to do that. Now I have a stand on the street, on the days I am just walking around without a stand, I ask for money from passers-by [called “signaling” in Turkish slang], I have had days like that too.
If they stop using DSM2, and grant gays the “right” to do military service, I won’t be going around saying “hey let gay people go do their military service.” They shouldn’t go. Heterosexuals shouldn’t go either. And I find DSM2 pretty funny actually. What is this DSM2? If defines homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder, as a pathology and proceeds from there. The rest of the world, however, uses DSM4 and even the psychiatric institutions in Turkey use DSM4. Only the military doesn’t. As the military has its separate everything, it also has separate laws, and it uses DSM2 accordingly. It still treats homosexuality as a disease. If you want to get an “unfit for military service” report, if you would like to benefit from the antiquated DSM2, then some very nice adventures await you.
These practices are absolutely arbitrary; they sometimes include asking you to submit photographs showing sexual intercourse. Well let me tell you, since I worked as a government employee before, let me use their lingo: you statement is the basis. But there you need to prove your sexual orientation, they can ask for anal examinations and such. But none of these have any medical basis. Not every gay man has to be passive the whole time, forget that. Also just because you’re gay, doesn’t mean you have sex with dozens of people every day. And anal examination can only detect something that is 15 days old anyways, and even that cannot be unequivocally detected. This is far from being scientific, it is merely used as a tool of humiliation. They do this so that people don’t come in with these statements. Even the expressions on people’s faces when they are asked of this kind of stuff is a trauma in itself. That is why I didn’t go. But I had friends who went to get that report, and I had friends who ended up getting that report. There were times we tried to find people to take the demanded photographs. This is just you humiliating yourself. You let them humiliate you. You are expected to face all this arbitrary treatment and plus expected to say “I am sick,” just to be able to get that report. Also the report has a flipside, it doesn’t let you go off the hook entirely. For instance, you cannot have an academic career if you have that report, because if you are so “rotten” and sick so as not to be able to do your military service, then you cannot get yourself a place within the system. That is why this shouldn’t be done. You can’t just go there and get yourself labeled, keep the system working, spend the rest of your life feeling guilty. This is what they want you to do.