CO Day 2021: Showing solidarity with COs in Turkey and around the world

Two people holding a banner in front of a building
Amnesty Greece Action in front of the Turkey Embassy in Athens
Natalia García


International Conscientious Objection Day (CO Day), 15th May, was celebrated with actions and events by activists from around the world in solidarity with those who have and those who continue to resist war. 

This year we had a particular focus on Turkey. In Turkey, there are thousands of COs who refuse to perform compulsory military service. The right to conscientious objection to military service isn’t recognised and anyone refusing compulsory military service faces lifetime persecution. This includes continuous arrest warrants and repeated prosecutions amounting to “civil death” – a term being used to describe their exclusion from social, cultural and economic life.

During the week of 15th May, together with Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) and International Fellowship for Reconciliation (IFOR), we held our fourth webinar as part of our webinar series "Campaigning for Conscientious Objection to Military Service". In the webinar International Solidarity: Turkey Case we heard directly from COs themselves as well as the activists who campaign for the recognition of the right to conscientious objection in Turkey. You can watch the recordings of all the webinars here on our Youtube channel Refuse to Kill

Also, War Resisters International office together with Conscientious Objection Association (Turkey) and Connection e.V., released and collected a number of resources - including publications and video interviews - to continue amplifying the voices from COs in Turkey and raising awareness on the situation of conscientious objection in the country. You can all check the available resources here

We organised an email action where we encouraged people to send an email to the Turkish embassy in their countries urging the Turkish Government to recognise the right to conscientious objection. Affiliates from around the world joined us in this email/letter action delivering letters to the Turkish embassies in their countries. Finally, we made a call out inviting people, groups and organisations to post on their social media sharing information about conscientious objection in Turkey and how COs continue to be persecuted for refusing to be part of the military. La tulpa Collective from Colombia and Movimento Nonviolento from Italy joined this social media action. You can see their posts below:



Events across different countries

Stop Civil Death in Turkey! - © Copyright: Connection e.V.
Stop Civil Death in Turkey! - © Copyright: Connection e.V.

In Germany, Connection e.V and DFG-VK (German Peace Society-United War Resisters), made a protest action on the square Hauptwache against the persecution of conscientious objectors in Turkey. Around 40 people participated in the protest. To see pictures from the action, click here. Also, on 16th May DFG-VK, Connection e.V and EAK (Protestant Committee for  Conscientious Objection and Peace) organised a two hours online roundtable about "Conscientious Objection as an important biographical event" with speakers from different backgrounds

International Fellowship of Reconciliation released a publication on their website sharing the voices of the members of IFOR around the world, on conscientious objection. These are testimonies about past initiatives, current campaigns, individual struggles, personal understanding, research of nonviolent alternatives, rejection of violence, compassion, faith and political engagement. Go here to read the testimonies. 

Quaker United Nation Office to mark International Conscientious Objectors' Day released their new publication on conscientious objection and refugee status determination procedures. This report aims to support informed refugee status determination for conscientious objectors to military service seeking asylum by highlighting relevant international and regional standards and jurisprudence and analyzing national guidance. Read it here or download it below


In the UK, a coalition of British peace organisations hosted the International Conscientious Objectors’ Day online ceremony including a minute's silence, songs and speeches from around the UK and beyond including Israeli conscientious objector Atalya Ben-AbbaNatalia García Cortés from War Resisters' International in Colombia and Actor Michael Mears live from the Conscientious Objectors' Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square, London. 

Sheffield Action on CO Day
Sheffield Creative Action For Peace on CO Day 2021

In Sheffield, On Saturday, May 15th Sheffield Creative Action for Peace laid a white poppy wreath at the Cenotaph in Barkers Pool to mark International Conscientious Objectors Day.

"This year, as always, we wanted to pay our respects to conscientious objectors from our past, the men and women who stood for peace at risk of their own life and liberty when all around were calling for war. We also wanted to show solidarity with those who are suffering imprisonment and stigma today for refusing to carry out military service in countries where there is still no right to register as a Conscientious Objector."

In Greece, Amnesty International Greece released a video with conscientious objectors from Turkey and Greece, you can watch it here (in Greek). They also organised an action in front of the Greek Parliament and the Turkish Embassy in Athens. 

European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) published a press release highlighting the courageous struggle of conscientious objectors and activists in Turkey. In this press release EBCO's president Alexia Tsouni stated:

“Turkey is the only member state in the Council of Europe that has not recognised the right to conscientious objection to military service, or at least indicated the intention of making civilian service available, and keeps prosecuting conscientious objectors and activists. We stand in solidarity with them and we honor their courageous struggle today, on the International Conscientious Objection Day”

To read the full text, go to this link.

In Serbia, on the occasion of May 15 Women in Black Belgrade organised an antimilitarist action on May 14 saying “NO to military service – YES to conscientious objection!”. They also released a declaration against the possible reintroduction of military service in the country. You can read it here and see some pictures of the action here


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Right to Refuse to Kill and Countering the Militarisation of Youth Programme Worker

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Right to Refuse to Kill and Countering the Militarisation of Youth Programme Worker

Right to Refuse to Kill and Countering the Militarisation of Youth Programme Worker