Our CO-Update this month is a reminder that, as we work together as an international movement against war, the repercussions of resistance to militarism is often felt by individuals refusing to fight. Our Finnish friends have written of the history of the movement in Finland where resistance to conscription began, in some form, in 1901. Reading about how a movement began, has changed and grown, and the successes it has had as it continues to resist conscription into the military, is motivating – I wonder if those early war resisters expected us to still be resisting militarism, over a century later?
In some cases we have good news; in a surprise judgement, three South Korean CO's have been found not guilty of draft evasion. In Belarus we hear of a step forward for some CO's there, after a new 'Alternative Service Law' was adopted, though the law does not go anywhere near far enough. Similarly, in Egypt, two CO's have been exempted from the military - no structural conditions have changed in Egypt, but this is an important change for the individuals involved. Other stories are a reminder of how far we still have to go - Greek CO Dimitris Sotiropoulos was found guilty of insubordination after a trial at a military court, and in Syria, Kurdish men have been arrested and forced into the Kurdish 'People's Defence Service'.
Normally for the CO-Update, WRI staff members collect the news and write the pieces ourselves. In this edition however, we're lucky to have had several pieces written for us by the WRI network. Alongside the piece from Finland, we also have two pieces from Eritrea; one looks at the broad societal impact of conscription in the country, the other is a series of testimonies from women, exploring the way militarism pervades every aspect of life in Eritrea. From the Czech Republic, we have news on the collection of details of civilians willing to volunteer for military service if the state and military deem this necessary, blurring the line between the military and wider society. At the same time, Lithuania has reinstated conscription - two artists have used photography to explore the gender dimensions of this.