To the Anti-Militarist Conference, Istanbul, 30 September - 2 October 2005

By Payday and Wages Due Lesbians

We send greetings to your Conference.  Your gathering comes at a crucial moment for women and men everywhere who are refusing to kill and refusing to be killers in a growing international anti-war movement.  The Turkish government and its military  must know that they are internationally condemned for many unjust imprisonments, tortures and worse, not least for the criminalisation and imprisonment of Mehmet Tarhan and the threat to all conscientious objectors and the thousands of other refusers of the military.  We are outraged that on 30 September he has been tortured again together with another prisoner friend who came to help him.

The refusing to kill movement needs Mehmet Tarhan because he is against all wars, in Turkey and everywhere.  He is the most visible of the 350,000 draft evaders today in Turkey, both Kurdish and Turkish, who are undermining a war waged by the Turkish State on behalf of and with the help of the US, British and Israeli governments, which are determined to establish military/industrial control of the world and all its resources: its people, its oil. . .  

We applaud Mehmet Tarhan’s courageous refusals to accept the army’s offer of a discharge on the grounds that he is gay and therefore has a “rotten” illness.  Like many lesbian/gay/bisexual grassroots people, he rejects the “equality” advocated by some in the lesbian and gay movement – to be able to be recruited and enjoy the “equal right” to kill.  Integration to a military that bombs, tortures and maims people is not a victory anyone should celebrate.  

We know that women, who with children are the main victims of war, are also the backbone of the anti-war movement internationally and the most determined and effective campaigners for justice for their loved ones. In the US Cindy Sheehan, and in the UK Rose Gentle, both mothers of young soldiers killed in Iraq, are only the most visible examples of this. 

Mehmet’s mother and sister Hatice and Emine Tarhan have campaigned tirelessly for him, in spite of poverty, ill health and, recently, eviction from their home. They regularly travel 14 hours each way to visit Mehmet in Sivas, bringing him support and news from the movement.  We know that they and Mehmet’s campaign generally are desperately short of money for survival and campaigning -- we urge people taking part in this event to give concrete support and to urge others to support financially whether or not they are activists in Mehmet’s defence.  The Turkish authorities must know that the world is watching and that the wide anti-militarist movement in Turkey is behind Mehmet Tarhan and his family.

Payday and Wages Due Lesbians have publicised Mehmet’s case as widely as we were able, including by organizing international protests outside Turkish Embassies in London, Venice and New York, and on Payday’s website  His case is crucial to establishing the right to conscientious objection and for lesbian and gay rights in Turkey and everywhere. 

European governments want to use Turkey’s entry into the European Union to further undermine all our human rights, and we will not allow this.  Our campaign in support of Mehmet Terhan is a demand also for us to retain our human rights in Europe which are under threat from many directions.

Along with Mehmet, his family and yourselves, we are demanding and defending our human rights among which are:
The right to conscientious objection
The right to refuse to kill
The right to sexual choice
The right to live in a world free of war and dictatorship. 
We will continue campaigning for a world where every life is valued and protected. 
Stop torturing Mehmet Tarhan, free him and all conscientious objectors now! 
Invest in caring, not killing!

Giorgio Riva                                                      Dean Kendall
Payday – UK                                                     Payday - US

Anne Neale                                                       Mary Kalyna
Wages Due Lesbians  - UK                               Wages Due Lesbians US

Payday is an international multiracial network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike

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