Turkish military’s treatment of a gay consciencious objector
Payday, 5 October 2005
Mehmet Tarhan is a gay man from Turkey, total/conscientious objector - he
is against all wars and refuses any alternative service to military
service in the Turkish draft army. The Turkish government does not offer
the alternative anyway and conscientious objection is not recognized.
After four months in jail, where he suffered torture and abuse by other
prisoners incited by the prison authority, Mr Tarhan was sentenced to four
years in jail for disobeying orders in front of the unit (Art. 88 of the
Military Code) on 10 August 2005.
The homophobic prosecutor and judges wanted Mr Tarhan to apply for
exemption for being gay – in this way the court should not have to
acknowledge that there is such a thing as conscientious objection. The
sentence was particular harsh because Mr Tarhan refused to be exempted in
those terms: the military’s designation of him as gay means he would be
classified as having a “rotten” illness, whereas he says it is the
military which is rotten. Furthermore, in order to certify men as gay the
military authority requires not only a
physical & manual examination by doctors but also a video of applicants
being sexually penetrated. The person applying for exemption as a gay man
has to be the one penetrated – the one penetrating is not classified as
gay by the military.
Mr Tarhan is now in a military prison in Sivas, which is run like a
barrack and he is considered a soldier to all effects. He has to follow a
strict military discipline, which he refuses. As a punishment he is often
put in isolation (15-21 days). When on 30 September he refused to have
his hair cut, 7-8 guards attacked him and another prisoner, Ali Dürel, who
came in his support. They were badly hurt and now they are both on hunger
strike (see our Action alert for Mr
Tarhan’s description of the attack and the hunger strike’s demands). The
hair cut usually happens every two-three weeks, so the attack may be
When Mr Tarhan comes out at the end of 2006 (if he gets the standard
sentence reduction), he will still be released into an army unit and
another vicious cycle could start again. Having committed no crime, Mr
Tarhan could be in prison until he is of military age, 43 or 48 or even,
in an emergency, 50 or 55 – he is now 27.
His lawyer submitted an appeal to the Supreme Military Court in Ankara on
19 September. There is still no date for the hearing.
Mr Tarhan’s case is well known throughout Turkey. His mother and sister
are central to his campaign and, in spite of poverty and ill health,
embark in expensive and excruciatingly long bus journeys (14 hours each
way travelling at night) to visit him and bring bring him news and support
from the movement.
Wages Due Lesbians have publicised Mr Tarhan’s case, including by
organizing international protests outside Turkish Embassies in London,
Venice and New York, and on Payday’s website
Giorgio Riva from Payday has just returned from a visit in Turkey, where
he met Mr Tarhan’s lawyer, his mother and sister and other campaigners.
The European Union is negotiating Turkey’s entry in an attempt to use it
in order to further undermine our human rights. Mr Tarhan’s case is
crucial to establishing the right to conscientious objection and for
lesbian and gay rights in Turkey and everywhere.