Yesterday 15/1/2019, Cypriot Conscientious Objector Halil Karapaşaoğlu has been arrested and taken to prison to serve a 20 day sentence for refusing to pay a fine for not attending reservist service call ups.
This is happening just days after a draft amendment law to recognise conscientious objection has been submitted to parliament. The Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus calls on the international community to show their solidarity and react to Halil’s imprisonment.
The number of troops and military bases that exist in Cyprus are disproportional to its size, but at the same time indicative of its strategic importance in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The (Greek Cypriot) “National Guard”, the “Turkish Cypriot Security Force”, the “Hellenic Force in Cyprus”, the “Turkish Force in Cyprus”, the British troops and the UN’s multinational force, have transformed the island into a huge barrack, making it one of the most militarized regions of the whole planet. In addition, many other (mostly NATO-aligned) armies are granted use rights and facilities for training, logistics support, or raiding purposes especially against Middle Eastern and North African targets.
On one hand, military agreements between the Cypriot government and some of the neighbouring countries (such as for example with Israel and Greece) escalates the situation in Cyprus and the wider region. Additionally, the intention of the government of the Republic of Cyprus to extract hydrocarbons, be it natural gas or oil, without solving the Cyprus problem first, creates a new explosive situation, which automatically leads to a new arms race. Whilst the public debt and the national deficit increases, wages and pensions are being cut, and public spending, as well as the social welfare and environmental protection services are reduced, military expenditure increases, through the purchasing of warships worth millions of euros, as well as through spending of tens of millions of euros for the maintenance of old weapons. The increasing militarization of the police and the use of the anti-terrorist special forces to suppress strikes, bi-communal actions and hunt immigrants is also alarming.
The ethnic conflict and the geographical division of the island have become the perfect excuse for the rulers to maintain the same peculiar and extended state of exception. This regime tries to expand its power and extend its dominance to every part of our lives. It is sufficient, simply by invoking it, to suspend labor, social, political and environmental rights, but also to suppress class struggles and mobilizations of all insubordinate pieces of the society (such as from the lower classes, as well as those marginalised). During this state of emergency, it is not only our rights that are being violated and our freedom(s) neglected, but even the provisions of “constitutional legitimacy” and the principles of the “rule of law” of the so-called “liberal democracy” are lifted.
One of the easiest ways to ensure nationalism and ethnic conflict is to maintain the army forces, both in the south and in the north parts of the island. The (Greek Cypriot) “National Guard” and the “Turkish Cypriot Security Force” respectively, consisted of local teenagers, who right after hishschool at the age of 18, become obligded to serve the army. Despite the nationalist frenzy, following the opening of checkpoints in 2003 which made free movement between the two sides of the island possible, several common initiatives were formed, aiming to counter the preachers of hate, demand the demilitarisation of the island and the recognition of the right to conscientious objection, and ultimately the reunification of the island through a federal model. Reunification of the island is the change which will allow societal struggles to move out of the shadow of nationalism and militarism, and take the main stage again.
Consientious objection has become an important way through which both, greek as well as turkish speaking Cypriots are expressing their refusal to become part of the militarised insanity on the island. Though in the Republic of Cyprus, consiensous objection has been legally acknowledged since 1992, it is still illegal in the northern part of the island. T/c have been campaigning for many years, demanding ammendments in the law. Their demand is simple: to have the right to refuse to become soldiers and refuse to fight against their g/c friends. Instead, their refusal has led to T/C consientious objectors being sent to jail in a number of occasions.
The most recent one of these cases is that of the t/c conscientious objector Halil Karapaşaoğlu, whom on the 3rd of January 2019, the military court in the northern part of the island, found guilty on 4 cases where he refused to fulfill his reserve and was thus given the sentence to either pay a fine of 2000 TL within 10 days or go to prison on the 14th of January for 20 days. Halil refused to pay the fine as he beieves that paying the fine is like accepting his refusal to serve the army is illegal. With his imprisonment Halil wants to highlight that consientious objection is a right whilst attempting to get as much support as possible towards this cause: for consiencious objection to be legally accepted.
We believe that every person must have the freedom to develop their own autonomy and offer to society without being forced by those in power by imposing the “duty” to serve h@ country. Military service – whether it is conscript or reserve – is not “sacred”. The army by nature turns against human life, and as a mechanism “teaches” the servant to be subjected completely and without objections to any authority. Conscientious objection is not a liberal civil right, but a libertarian act of political disobedience and anti-militarism.
We declare our solidarity with conscientious objector Halil Karapaşaoğlu.
No soldiers never and nowhere,
We will not give our lives for the bosses!
Beyond Europe, 15th January 2018