The case of conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke


Back to: Mehmet loves Bariş* Documentation: Conscientious objection in Turkey

The case of conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke

Osman Murat Ülke was the first Turkish conscientious objector who was arrested for his conscientious objection. He burnt his military papers publicly in a press conference in Izmir on 1 September 1995, but was only arrested one year later. He spent more than two years in prison, and was charged and sentenced repeatedly. After 2 1/2 years in prison he was released, but again supposed to report to "his" military unit in Bilecik, which he did not do. He is presently living openly in Izmir, but is legally a deserter.

The documents about his case included in this documentation are only a few examples, and cannot give a complete overview.

His "case" is also part of the legal documents, which are incluced in this documentation too.

9 October 1996

ISKD (Izmir Savas Karsitlari Dernegi - Izmir War Resisters' Association) President and Conscientious Objector Osman Murat Ülke has been arrested

Osman Murat Ulke was detained on 7 October, 1996, as a result of his declaration of conscientious objection more than a year ago. He is currently awaiting interrogation in Buca Prison, Izmir.

Once the interrogation has taken place, the military prosecutor will bring a new suit against him, standing to the Article 155 ("alienating people from military service") in the Turkish Penal Code. The article is used widely against war resisters. It not only violates the freedom of thought and expression, but also prevents the army and militarism from criticism.

It has taken over a year to arrest Osman, even though he has not been in hiding and has continued his everyday life. The written orders of the military prosecutor from Military Court of General Staff in Ankara, leading to his arrest on 8 October, 1996, were dated 5 September, 1995. They were received by the local police station on 1 October, 1996!

Izmir SKD believes that in a country where there is war, and basic human rights are violated systematically as a state policy, a conscientious objector would not be safe in the hands of the state and military forces. Three political prisoners were murdered as a result of state intervention in Buca prison less than one and a half years ago. The Turkish State must be held responsible for any inhuman treatment on Osman Murat Ulke, who is currently residing in that same prison.

Please send protest messages to the following fax numbers.

# General Staff: + 99 - 312 - 418 53 41
# Prime Ministry: + 99 - 312 - 417 04 76
# Minister of Justice: + 99 - 312 - 417 39 54
# Ministry of National Defence: + 99 - 312 - 324 46 27


Background Information

On 17 May 1994, Istanbul War Resisters' Association held a press conference against conscription, which led to the closure of the Association by the state, and the arrest of four people, including Osman Murat Ülke. That trial concluded on 29 August 1995. While his co-defendants were sentenced to between two and six months' imprisonment, Osman was taken to Cankaya Recruiting Office and enlisted as a conscript. The Recruiting Office allowed him to return home for two days to prepare, then requested him to report back on 31st August to the 9th Constable Soldier Drilling Regiment in Bilecik, Bursa.

Instead, Osman held a press conference in Izmir on 1 September, 1995, International Peace Day. Here he declared his conscientious objection, and burnt his military pass.

Appendix: The statement of Osman Murat Ulke, 1 September 1995 - the reason for his arrest

Good day. This press conference has not been organised by ISKD. I am personally responsible for this meeting.

As you know, the trial in the Ankara General Staff Military Court in which we were accused of "alienating people from military service" came to its conclusion on 29 August 29.

The Chairperson of the closed-down Istanbul SKD, Arif Hikmet Iyidogan, was sentenced to six months in prison, university student Gokhan Demirkiran to four months, Mehmet Sefa Fersal to two months. I have been acquitted. But, during the trial, and although it was not related to the matter of the trial, the judge asked if we had gone to military service. As I admitted I had not, I was taken to Cankaya Recruiting Office.

The Army, unable to overpower us through jurisprudence, now deems necessary to distance the war resisters from public opinion with such an act.

Before all I am not a draft evader, but a conscientious objector.

I neither think to escape nor to go to conscription. I have no reason to escape conscription, because I am in favour of people using their right not to be conscripted without having to hide.

According to the papers given by the Recruiting Office I am recognised as a conscript and it claimed that I should go to the 9th Constable Soldier drilling Regiment in Bilecik, on 31 August.

As you see, I have not gone, I am here. Even though I cannot be called a draft evader, I consider it meaningless to go of my own accord. On the contrary, here and now, I will burn this Military Pass against which my own will rebels. In addition, I will burn the notification paper and give back the rest of the documents to the 10 state by mail. Perhaps they will need them. Also I will send back the 101.000 TL that was given to me by the ¥ankaya Recruiting Office for transportation and food expenses.

I am not a soldier and I will never be. Of course I am aware that I will be taken by force. But until I am taken, there will be no change in my daily routine. they can find me here in order to take me by force. But I want to stress that I will resist in the barracks until the end and never perform military service.

Osman Murat Ülke
September 1, 1995

Osman concluded his speech before the verdict on 29 August 1995 as follows:

"Our aim is not that conscientious objection become law: conscience cannot be restrained by laws. Our cause is to activate the self will-power of individuals against the war machine which clearly has no conscience."

Osman's original declaration of objection, 1994

In view of my deepest convictions and way of life, it is impossible for me to take part in military service or any other compulsory service.

Furthermore I refuse to acknowledge any kind of hierarchical authority. In my opinion the army is the clearest form of institutional power, which makes it a personal enemy I seek to combat and destroy. This is why I consider conscientious objection as the first step on the path I have to follow to preserve my self- esteem.

Turkey is based on an authoritarian culture that pervades all dimensions of life at work, in the private sphere, and - especially strongly - the political arena. It is therefore not surprising that a large part of the population turns a blind eye to the war that Turkey is currently waging and continue in their way of life. The myth perpetuated about the role of soldiers as protectors of their country and fellow citizens from the outside enemy has turned them into one of the most commonly used instruments of oppression in their own country. I cannot say how big a difference I and those who think like me can make, but I do know that no coercive measure will ever force me to become a soldier.

Osman Murat Ulke is a conscientious objector to military service.

Following a military trial of Osman Murat Ulke on 29-8-95 in Ankara, Osman - although acquitted - was brought to the recruitment office to start his military service. He was given a military passport and a call-up to report on 31 August 1995 to the commander of the 9th Gendarmerie in Bilecik (province Bursa) for basic military training.

However, on 1 September 1995 he organised a press conference during which he publicly declared not to be a soldier and never to be one. (...)

On 7 October 1996, more than a year later, Osman was arrested because of the burning of his military papers. He was accused of violation of article 155 TCK that renders punishable 'every attempt to alienate the people from the armed forces'.

This trial, before the military court in Ankara, has not come to a conclusion. After the first session on 19-11-96 Osman was released from military prison, but immediately brought to 'his' unit in Bilecik. In Bilecik, he again declared not to be a soldier nor to become one, and therefore refused to obey and order. He was then imprisoned and accused of disobedience (article 87/1 TACK). He was heard by the military judges on 11 December 1996.

The trial might lead to a prison sentence between six months and two years.

So now there are two court cases against Osman Murat Ulke.

1. Firstly, Osman is charged for 'alienating the people form the armed forces', an offense of article 155 of Turkish Penal Law (TCK).

He is accused because of publicly declaring that he is a conscientious objector. It is not the act of objecting itself, but the publicity that Osman has given to this act is an offense of article 155.

Therefore this trial can be seen as an attempt of the armed forces to limit the freedom of expression of Osman.

The next trial session in this case will be on 28 January 1997 in the military court in Ankara.

2. Secondly, Osman is charged for 'disobedience', an offense under the article 87 of Turkish Miltary Penal Law (TACK). In Osman's case also article 45 TACK is very important. This trial has great importance because Turkey has no provision for conscripts who have strong conscientious objectors against performance of military service. The United Nations have recegnised the right to conscientious objection in Resolution 89/59 of the Human Rights Commission of the UN. The case of Osman is one of the first in Turkey in which a conscript with serious conscientious objections is tried because of refusal to perform military service. This case is therefore a testcase to see to what extent Turkey has implemented international accepted standards into its legal system.

The next trial session will be on 30 January 1997 in the military court. It might be possible that this session cannot take place, due to procedural problems.

Bart Horeman, 30 DECEMBER 1996

Osman sentenced for "continuing disobedience"

Peace News No 2412, April 1997

Turkish war resister Osman Murat Ülke was sentenced to 5 months imprisonment on 6 March for "continuing disobedience in a military unit". When he completes his sentence at the beginning of April, he will again be taken to the 9th Constable Training Unit in Bilecik where he will again refuse to soldier and again be charged with "disobedience". And again sent back to Esiksehir Military Prison.

Meanwhile he is expecting a charge of "desertion" for not reporting for duty upon his release from military prison in December, and on 1 April Osman with 11 others will face trial under Article 155 for an anti-militarist declaration published in a book by the Turkish Human Rights Association.

While to the outside world, it must seem that Osman is trapped in a never-ending loop of punishments, Osman remains in good spirits, determined to resist, and several colleagues in the (now-banned) ISKD (Izmir War Resisters Association) are preparing to take the same path.

The German church group EAK (Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Betreuung der Kriegsdienstverweigerer) has awarded its Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze prize jointly to the Izmir War Resisters and to the Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors.

International support is vital to the ISKD strategy, so please write either a message of support to Osman or a protest to the Turkish embassy in your country, or preferably both! 15 May - International Conscientious Objection Day - will this year focus on Turkey. Anti-militarist groups in several countries have decided to focus on the situation in Turkey.

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