Stephen Funk speaks out in support of Mehmet Tarhan
December 2005

Mehmet Tarhan, 27-year old gay conscientious objector of Turkey, is someone that deserves our respect and full support.  Since declaring his conscientious objection in October of 2001 Mehmet has been actively voicing his beliefs and has been imprisoned for over 7 months for his refusal of military inscription.  I was particularly moved by his story because of the similarities I drew with my personal experiences in the military.  My name is Stephen Funk, like Mehmet I am a conscientious objector, like Mehmet I am very vocal in my CO beliefs, we are both homosexuals, and we have both been imprisoned for our refusal of military service.

In April of 2003, while much of the United States was still fervently supportive of the war in Iraq, I became the first public conscientious objector in this conflict.  Because I came to the realization that I could no longer serve in the US Marines in any context without violating my personal beliefs, I declared my conscientious objection and applied for discharge on that basis.  Despite the extra time and effort demanded of me, I was intent on being discharged because of the discrimination and violence I was being ordered to carry out on others; that military service as a gay man put me in an atmosphere of discrimination and violence was not as important.  Ultimately I was court-martialed and sentenced to six months in military prison, but not until after I had spent seven months traveling and speaking out around the country to spread my message.  Since being released from prison I have on several occasions been approached by people who heard about or decided to apply for conscientious objection because of hearing about my story of refusal.

Mehmet also has refused to be discharged for being a homosexual, and I applaud him for it.  The anal exam he’s been threatened with obviously is rape.  This is the Turkish government and military, they shouldn’t be doing criminal activities like that!  Everyone in Turkey and everywhere else should be outraged, no matter what you think of Mehmet’s stand.  Especially given that he’s taking the harder road – doing the right thing following his conscience, rather than the easier road of claiming exemption because he’s gay.  They’re trying to undermine everything he’s done.

His willingness to adhere to his convictions despite the consequences is truly commendable, and demands the admiration and encouragement of all those in the world who are working for peace and justice.  I am proud to support Mehmet Tarhan in his struggle, and hope that his story will be dispersed throughout the world so that more people can draw from its inspiration.