Letter from Halil Savda, 14 April 2009
In November 2004 I declared my conscientious objection at the Beşiktepe/Tekirdağ military barracks.
I can briefly outline the ideas behind my objection as follows;
a-) Through my rejection to military service I said “no” to the conflict that has been going on between the PKK and the Turkish Armed Forces for the past 25 years! I sent the message to the people of Turkey not to join the army or the guerrillas through my conscientious objection.
b-) The biggest lie of the militarist system is that security and freedom are interwoven with violence. The language of the opponents to the militarist system has always been consistently the same. Security and freedom are realized and expressed in non-violence. While strengthening my search for freedom through my conscientious objection, I gave the message that security of life can only be realized through detaching violence from it.
c-) I proved the possibility of purification from violence. Violence has been made an inseparable part of human nature in the society of nation states. Familiarization of and orienting human nature to violence is presented to us as a natural act. The discourse that violence is a natural act is a total lie. Violence is not a natural human act. It is possible to go beyond the violent act that is acculturated with the state society. I believe that we need to go beyond violence and that a culture of non-violence should flourish.
d-) Questioning the militarist value system and its practices which are identified with military service, one is also obliged to question the hegemonic understanding of masculinity. In Turkey, military service is a laboratory in which masculinity is reproduced. The patriarchal system is solidified through military service. I objected to military service, because I am also against this laboratory manufactured masculinity. The struggle against militarism defined in heterosexist terms through sexist structures finds its fundamental expression in anti-militarism. This refers to freedom of sexual orientation, gender equality and total and unrestricted freedom.
e-) The militarist system everywhere presents to us war as an option, violence as a strategy and killing as an alternative. War is not an option, violence is not a strategy and dying and killing are not a matter of choice; and shouldn’t be. Through my conscientious objection I wanted to not only say “no” to homophobia but also show that the struggle against militarism can be conducted through non-violent means.
Due to my conscientious objection, I was subjected to a number of human rights violations. I was arrested 4 times and detained in a military prison. I was tried at the court 3 times. I was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment by the Çorlu/Tekirdağ military court. In total I was imprisoned for 17 months. During my detention, I was subjected to torture by beating. I was psychologically tortured by the military officials and subjected to abuse. My experiences were a clear articulation of the violation of fundamental principles of human rights.
Turkey not only torture us through imprisonment, but also at the same time deploys the torture of “civil death” when not imprisoned. We have no rights in civil life. We have been deprived of all human and legal rights. We are suspended in the lifelong vicious circle of incarceration, prison and military barracks. The Turkish authorities try to ignore the issue of conscientious objection in order to keep public opinion in the dark and obstruct the recognition and public discussion of conscientious objection. As a part of this strategy of ignoring and silencing the claims of conscientious objectors, the authorities have recently been issuing “not fit for military service” reports to imprisoned conscientious objectors. It is in fact the militarist system that is rotten through and through.
As individuals we have a responsibility towards humanity of which we are a part. Our responsibility is to refuse war and militarism. I refused to be a part of the militarist system which produces destruction, devastation, pain, hunger, exploitation and slavery. No one can make me believe that dying, killing and desperation are our destiny.
There is another way apart from war, dying and killing: This is to refuse war and militarization; it is to purify ourselves from all sorts of violent acts; it is to refuse all kinds of violent organizations; it is to transcend the state, the statist culture and institutions which are the main sources of violence and the mobilization of violence. We can only achieve this through going beyond violence as a means and a method of struggle in our relations.
I know that freedom is the practice of people who live with their conscience.
My best regards and love to all of you.
Peace and freedom will prevail in the end.