Conscientious objection


In February of this year, we sent out a CO-Alert of a Colombian Conscientious Objector, Brayan Gonzalez, who was irregularly recruited by the Army. His CO application wasn't recognised by the military Interdisciplinary Commission. To avoid being charged for desertion, he decided to come back to the battalion. He continues refusing inside the battalion. Read Brayan's story and consider sending the support letter. 

At the beginning of June, the US President threatened state governors with the 1807 Insurrection Act by sending military and federal police into cities across the US - as happened in Washington D.C. - if they didn’t react and repress protest in their states. Some National Guard and active-duty GIs reached out to Veterans and GI rights organisations to consult about their options if they were going to refuse to comply and follow orders.

The Inter American Court of Human Rights has adopted its admissibility report on José Ignacio Orías Calvo’s conscientious objection case, presented by Derechos en Acción against Bolivia. The IACHR considered that the Bolivian state didn’t comply with its commitment of legislating on the human right of conscientious objection.

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

In an extract reproduced from WRI's 2010 anthology of women conscientious objectors, Ferda Ülker, a feminist, LGBT, and antimilitarist activist, as well as one of the first women to declare herself a conscientious objector in Turkey, explains how she came to make the decision to do so in 2005, and the gender dynamics she encountered along the way. Her declaration itself is also included.

Conscientious objection has been associated with men who declare themselves conscientious objectors. The issue has been molded and defined by them, most importantly by the compulsory military service duty they face. We women saw ourselves not as agents but supporters of the struggle. As we got involved however, we started to see the crucial importance of women's inclusion in the conscientious objectors' struggle. On the other hand, it still took us a long time to find the courage to say ‘yes, here we are’. One of the reasons for this may be the militarist culture which has had its effect on us. Having been raised in this cultural environment, even when we participate in oppositional movements, we may fail to get rid of the marks of it. We get fearful as women even when we are a part of the oppositional movement's gatherings. When we come up with a claim and need to make it, we wait to make our point intact, clear enough to deny any space for discussion. But time passes while we wait.

Working Together

Placheolder image
Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Throughout this book, readers will find there is a particular focus on ‘gender’. But why is such a focus pertinent? Dr. Cynthia Cockburn is a feminist researcher and writer, living in London, where she is active in Women in Black against War, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She holds honorary chairs in the Department of Sociology, City University London, and the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, University of Warwick. Here, she addresses this question.

Why Gender?

The clear conviction of authors and editors that 'gender matters' is a welcome feature of this book. But why does it matter? What do we gain by employing a gender analysis in the study of conscientious objection, the movement of those who refuse to be enlisted into the state's preparations for war? The answer to this question, I think, may come in three parts.


Placheolder image
Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Why this Book?

Conscientious objection to military service is most often viewed, and written about, as a moral stand that an individual takes against an injustice in a particular conflict, or against the injustice that is war itself. But conscientious objection is also a form of political action, and a focus for campaigning and organising. As such, it has its particular strengths, and faces particular challenges.

This book has been created by and for organisers and campaigners working on conscientious objection all over the world. It contains short articles, brief case studies written by conscientious objectors and experienced activists from five continents, who tell about their actions and campaigns, share tips for successful campaigning, and discuss the difficulties their movements are facing. The chapters of the book cover a broad variety of political and social contexts in which conscientious objection movements operate and address the specific features of conscientious objection on different ideological grounds. They also pose some tough questions conscientious objectors have to face if they want their movements to be sustainable and to avoid reproducing the very same militarised and patriarchal social structures that created the injustice to which they respond.

Following International Conscientious Objection Day, WRI hosted a webinar on conscientious objection and asylum with contributions by campaigners from Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) and Connection e.V.. The presentations from this webinar are now available online and you can watch here.

CO-Update 100 is out!

Placheolder image

The latest issue of our newsletter CO Update is out! In this issue, you'll find stories on conscientious objection and conscription from Ukraine,Turkey, Eritrea, Germany, USA, Azerbaijan, Thailand, among others.

The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement condemns Bill No 3553, recently sent to parliament by President Zelensky. If parliament passes the bill, Ukraine will face further bloodshed, crime will rise, and our economy will fall into deeper misery and shadows. Thousands of additional Ukrainian citizens will seek asylum abroad, away from war and violence destroying their peaceful way of life.

Ruling party deputy Siyavush Novruzov told parliament on 30 March that an Alternative Service Law should be adopted. Parliament's Defence Committee is handling this, he told Forum 18. The government has not made public any draft. Azerbaijan committed to the Council of Europe to have alternative service by 2003 but failed to meet its obligation.

PRO ASYL and Connection e.V., both based in Germany, released a report criticising the German government for its record of denying refugee status for asylum seekers from Eritrea. In their report, the organisations detailed the ongoing oppressive practices of the Eritrean regime, despite a peace treaty between Ethiopia and Eritrea in July 2018. They called on German authorities and courts to provide necessary protection for Eritreans fleeing the oppression and indefinite conscription in Eritrea in accordance with the UNHCR guidelines and Geneva Convention.

Subscribe to Conscientious objection