Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe:
Since the 1990s, there are a small number of COs who publicly state that they refuse to perform military service for non-religious, pacifist reasons. The Turkish language actually makes a distinction between conscientious objectors (vicdani retci) and draft evaders (asker kacagi).
first known Turkish CO was Osman Murat Ülke, a Turkish citizen who grew
up in Germany and returned to Turkey. In 1995 he publicly declared that he
was a conscientious objector and refused to perform military service.
Since then, dozens of others have followed. Between 1995 and 2004 approx.
40 men have openly declared themselves as conscientious objectors, mostly
by making a public statement or giving media interviews about their
reasons for refusing military service.
may be punished under Article 63 of the Turkish Military Penal Code for
avoiding military service. COs who attract media attention or publish
articles about their refusal to perform military service may also be
punished to between six months' and two years' imprisonment under Article
318 of the Turkish Criminal Code for "alienating the people from the
armed forces". In 2004, a new Criminal Code was introduced (Law No
5237). Under the previous Criminal Code, "alienating people from the
armed forces" was punishable under Article 155 with a similar term of
the past, there have been several cases of COs who have been sentenced
under these two articles. The most well known case was Osman Murat Ülke,
who was arrested in October 1996 and during the following years spent a
total of 30 months in prison on several charges of disobeying orders. In
some other cases, COs have been acquitted of the charges by military
recent years, it appears that the Turkish authorities have refrained from
harsh punishment of COs. This may have been caused by the fact that
previous trials of COs attracted considerable (international) attention
and the Turkish authorities may wish to avoid further attention for the
issue of conscientious objection.
as long as there are no legal provisions for their right to conscientious
objection, the legal position of COs remains vulnerable and they may still
be subject to criminal prosecution.
2004 there were five known cases of COs. In May 2004, one CO was briefly
arrested after he publicly declared that he refused to perform military
service. The police arrested him briefly, but subsequently released him
again. So far, the police have not attempted to arrest him again. In
October 2004, four COs publicly declared their conscientious objection. 
In December 2004, one of them was arrested and held in military prison. 
His case is believed to be still pending.
in 2003 one CO openly stated his conscientious objection. He was arrested
in January 2003, but was released after some days pending trial. The
military doctors gave him a three months' holiday to recover from what
they diagnosed as "a social disturbance of his personality". His
case is believed to be still pending. 
from the secular COs mentioned above, some members of religious
denominations who forbid their members to bear arms, in particular
Jehovah's Witnesses, have also refused to perform military service.
Members of Jehovah's Witnesses have regularly been sentenced to
imprisonment under Article 63 of the Penal Code for avoiding military
service. In recent years, Jehovah's Witnesses are reportedly regularly
allowed to perform unarmed military service within the armed forces. They
have complied with this. 
in some cases, members of Jehovah's Witnesses have still been sentenced to
imprisonment. In 2003 and 2004, several Jehovah's Witnesses were
imprisoned for not taking the military oath and/or refusing to carry
weapons. They are usually sentenced to one month's imprisonment, after
which they are released pending trial. 
evasion and desertion are widespread. The exact number of draft evaders is
not known, but the number is estimated to be approx. 350,000.
evasion is prompted by the risk of being sent to serve in South Turkey and
poor conditions and human rights violations within the armed forces. There
have been regular reports of Kurdish conscripts in particular being
subjected to discriminatory treatment, especially when they are suspected
of having separatist sympathies. 
years, the Turkish armed forces have been involved in heavy fighting with
the PKK in South Eastern Turkey. In 1999 a ceasefire was agreed between
the Turkish government and the PKK, but the situation has remained tense
ever since. All conscripts may be sent to serve in South Eastern Turkey as
postings of conscripts are usually decided at random by computer. There is
a sizeable group of conscripts of Kurdish origin who refuse to perform
military service because they do not want to fight against their own
people. Many Kurdish draft evaders have, in fact, left Turkey and applied
for asylum abroad.
evasion and desertion are punishable under the Law on Military Service and
the Turkish Military Penal Code. Turkish law actually makes a distinction
between evasion of military registration, evasion of medical examination,
evasion of enlistment and desertion.
to Article 63 of the Penal Code, draft evasion is punishable (in
peacetime) by imprisonment of:
is punishable under Articles 66-68 of the Penal Code with up to three
years' imprisonment. Deserters who have fled abroad may be sentenced to up
to five years' imprisonment, and up to ten years in case of aggravating
circumstances (Article 67).
of draft evasion and desertion is strict. 
The registration of conscripts is, in fact, one of the most effective
government registrations in Turkey. Draft evaders and deserters may be
arrested after routine checks such as traffic control. They are not able
to leave Turkey, as the military registration number is included on
identity documents. In addition, police and gendarma authorities are
responsible for finding draft evaders and deserters and may conduct house
searches and arrest them.
are no detailed figures available on the scale of prosecution of draft
evaders and deserters, but military courts are believed to deal with
approx. 60,000 cases per year that are connected to draft evasion. About
half of these cases reportedly deal with cases of conscripts going absent
for less than a week, mostly conscripts who do not report themselves back
in time after a period of leave.
sentences of less than one year's imprisonment for evasion of
registration/examination for enlistment or for desertion are generally
commuted into fines, which must be paid after the end of military service.
Sentences for draft evasion for periods longer than three months, when the
draft evader has not reported himself voluntarily, may not be commuted
into a fine. Suspended sentences may not be imposed for evasion of
registration/examination or enlistment or for desertion.
who are convicted for draft evasion must still complete their term of
military service. Repeated offenders may thus be sentenced again. Prison
sentences for repeated offenders may not be commuted into fines.
convicted to less than six months' imprisonment usually serve their prison
sentence in military prisons; those convicted to over six months'
imprisonment are imprisoned in regular prisons. After serving their prison
sentence, they still need to perform the remaining term of their military
addition to the sentences outlined above, Turkish citizens can also have
their citizenship withdrawn if they live abroad and do not return to
perform military service within a certain time limit (Article 25(c) of the
Turkish Nationality Law No. 403). The names of individuals who have
forfeited their citizenship are published in the official Government
Gazette. Over the years, thousands of Turks have, in fact, forfeited their
citizenship. Those who have lost their citizenship in this way may apply
to get their citizenship restored, but their applications may only be
accepted if they complete their military service. 
December 2000, the Turkish government adopted an amnesty law. The amnesty
law applied to various crimes, including draft evasion. The amnesty law
applied to draft evaders and deserters who reported themselves to the
authorities before 23 April 1999. Although they were freed from criminal
prosecution under Articles 63-68 and 70-75 of the Penal Code, they still
remained liable for military service. Those who had not reported
themselves to the authorities by April 1999 were not granted amnesty. 
A temporary regulation has been in place which also allowed young men
living in Turkey to buy themselves out of service and do a one-month
military service. This regulation applied to men born before 1 January
1973 and applications needed to be made before 4 May 2000. 70,000 Turkish
men reportedly applied for this regulation.
 Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Algemeen Ambtsbericht Turkije (country report), November 2003.
 UK Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Country Report, October 2004.
 Turkish Constitutional Court 467/1991 and 422,343/1993 (Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2003).
 Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2003).
 United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, including the question of conscientious objection to military service, Report of the Secretary-General submitted pursuant to Commission resolution 1998/77, 56th session (E/CN.4/2000/55), 17 December 1999.
 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Honouring of obligations and commitments by Turkey, Doc. 10111, 17 March 2004.
 Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights, Second Section: Judgment as to the admissibility of the application 39437/98 by Osman Murat Ülke against Turkey, 1 June 2004. War Resisters' International: Conscientious Objection Update, No.3/November 2004.
 Hülya Ücpinar: Was erwartet Kriegsdienstverweiger mit dem neuen Strafgesetzbuch, in: Connection e.V., Rundbrief KDV im Krieg, January 2005.
 War Resisters' International: Conscientious Objection Update, No.3/November 2004.
 War Resisters' International: Conscientious objector Halil Savda arrested / fears of torture, 16 December 2004.
 War Resisters' International: Conscientious objector Mehmet Bal released, 4 February 2003.
 Spokesman of the Jehovah's Witnesses, quoted in: Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2003).
 US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: Country report on human rights practices 2004, International Religious Freedom Report 2004, International Religious Freedom Report 2003.
 Different sources make different assessments of the extent to which Kurdish conscripts face discriminatory treatment within the armed forces. This has, in fact, been the subject of debate in many asylum cases of Turkish/Kurdish draft evaders and deserters in Western European countries.
 Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2003).
 UK Home Office (2004).
 Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2003). Schweizerische Flüchtlingshilfe: Türkei, Zur Aktuellen Situation, SFH, Bern, June 2003.
Quaker Council for European Affairs: The Right to Conscientious Objection
in Europe: A Review of the Current Situation, 2005
Address: Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), Square Ambiorix 50, B-1000 Brussels, Tel: +32 2 230 49 35, Fax: +32 2 230 63 70, email: firstname.lastname@example.org