Free Mehmet Tarhan!

Gay Kurdish conscientious objector jailed in Turkey
11 February 2006: Defend the gay right to refuse to kill


Dear sisters and brothers,


We send greetings to your demonstration initiated by lesbian women and gay men, against the Vatican’s interference in the lives of gay and straight people, for equal rights between married couples and partners of the same or different sex, against government and religious threats to restrict abortion rights.  We know that poverty can also be a contraceptive. Women must have the money and resources to have the families we want.  We are adding the voices of movements for social justice in Italy to the international support for Mehmet Tarhan’s right to refuse to kill and to be killed.


Many of you already know about his case.  Sentenced to four years in a military jail for “refusing orders”, Mehmet Tarhan is a gay Kurdish anarchist man, a total conscientious objector – who opposes all wars and any alternative to military service.


Turkey has conscription, but no right to conscientious objection. The Turkish military insists on treating homosexuality as an “illness”, and men can apply for military exemption on these grounds, but they must provide as “evidence” a video of an act of sexual penetration and submit to an anal examination.  It is the equivalent of the notorious “virginity test”, which the Turkish police and army have used for decades as a pretext to perpetrate rape and other sexual violence against women, in particular Kurdish women.


Mehmet Tarhan refuses to submit to such degradation.  He rejects the “offer” of avoiding the draft by allowing himself to be classified as “ill”.  As a result, he has been in the military jail in Sivas since 8 April 2005, where he has been attacked and tortured and has been twice on hunger strike to protest (both times winning most of his demands).


On 9 December there were demonstrations in his support in 23 cities in 13 countries, including in Milan (organised by Facciamo Breccia) and Venice – many individuals and organisations in Italy sent messages of support.


Many demonstrators also called for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and award-winning president of the Black Journalists Association in the US, who has been on death row for over 20 years.  He has continued his campaigning journalism from there, fighting against war and for justice for all, including lesbian and gay activists. 


In December, 20 MEPs signed a letter to the Turkish President, Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, demanding Mehmet Tarhan’s immediate release from prison and insisting that Turkey recognize the right to conscientious objection.  A motion has been circulated in the Scottish Parliament, against the homophobic physical examinations and demanding an end to the torture and for Mehmet’s immediate discharge from the army.


Most recently, on 24January, in a case which represents a precedent for Mehmet’s, the European Court for Human Rights found Turkey guilty of inflicting degrading treatment on Osman Murat Ülke, another conscientious objector who was imprisoned eight times for a total of 701 days for refusing to serve.


Payday and Wages Due Lesbians support the courageous fight Mehmet is making in the face of great personal hardship, brutality and torture. His mother and sister have wholeheartedly supported his struggle in spite of poverty and ill-health, regularly travelling from Istanbul to Sivas, 14-hours there and back, to visit him.

Mehmet is among a growing international movement of lesbian and gay refuseniks who are saying NO to the military.  “If they grant gays the ‘right’ to do military service, I won’t be going around saying ‘Let gay people go do their military service.’  They shouldn’t go. Heterosexuals shouldn’t go either.”  He echoes Stephen Funk, a young gay Marine of Filipino and Native American descent, who in 2003 spent six months in prison for refusing to go to Iraq.  He said: “
I am not an advocate for gay inclusion in the military because I personally do not support military action.”


Lesbian and gay people haven't fought for decades to win the “equal right” to kill and be killed.  There is No Pride in Killing.  Many lesbian women are also mothers, and like all mothers they haven’t raised their children to fight wars, and support children who are refuseniks.


Turkey has been the most faithful US stooge since the cold war; the US provided the majority of the armaments Turkey used in its genocidal campaign against Kurds in the 1990s.  European governments want to use Turkey’s entry into the European Union to further undermine all our human rights, in Europe and globally.  We must not allow Turkey to strengthen Bush, Blair and Berlusconi against us in Europe.


Support the campaign to release Mehmet Tarhan and his right to refuse to kill:

·      write letters of protest to the Turkish embassy (  cc:

·      put pressure on MEPs to sign the letter of their 20 colleagues (  and raise Mehmet’s case in the European Parliament (see list of MEPs at'emergenza4.htm)

·      call on Italian MPs to protest to  the Turkish authorities.


We urge everyone to defend our human rights: to conscientious objection, to refuse to kill, to sexual choice, to live in a world free of war, dictatorship and interference by the clergy of whatever religion, a world which Invests in Caring Not Killing, and demand with us:


Ø    An end to the mental and physical torture of Mehmet Tarhan, his immediate release from prison and his discharge from the  army;

Ø     Recognition by Turkey of the right to conscientious objection.

Ø     Abolition of Turkish military’s definition of homosexuality as an illness, requiring anal examination and visual “evidence”.


For more info:

tel: 00 44 20 7209 4751 or

00 44 20 7482 2496 (English),

00 44 780 378 9699 (Italian)

email: or:


Wages Due Lesbians, an international multi-racial network campaigning for the economic, legal and human rights of lesbian/bisexual women


Payday, an international, multiracial network of men, gay and straight, working with the Global Women’s Strike