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(en) Turkey, Interview with prisoned total objector [tr]

Date Thu, 26 May 2005 10:20:53 +0300

[The following interview which was done with imprisoned anarchist
total/objector Mehmet Tarhan is published on daily Birgün newspaper
(in Turkish) last weekend with some restrictions.]
"Almost every soldier (I can all all except for criminal observation)
who comes to the service is administered a drug called “concrete.”
This is a drug that can cause serious spasms in the body shortly after
injection. The nurse to whom I asked why they administered “concrete” to
everyone, told me the drug was used as a method of deterrence. In fact,
the patients who came to the hospital on their own will for psychiatric
treatment, begged to be released, after a couple injections."

First of all I should state that I’ll write the first
things that come to mind because sentences that have
been thought out and worked on for a long time, will
no longer be my own words.

1)What does “total objection” exactly mean, could you
explain by combining it with your own stance?

I consider the total objection concept within the
boundaries of conscientous objection. Conscientious
objection refers to the the individual who refuses
to serve in the army for religious, political, ethical
or other reasons. Conscientious objection may be
founded on various things, but in its essence, it is
the freedom of people to organize their lives towards
their own wishes. Total objection roughly means
refusing any “civil” alternatives that may be
suggested in place of military service. The reason for
this is
that, by militarism, the total objector does not only
imply army service, but the entire web of hierarchical
and discriminatory relationships that lie in the core
of social life and relationships. I try to lead my
life by trying to stay out of this web of
relationships. Both in my declaration, and throughout
the period since my arrest on April 8, I have refused
all options of deferral of or exemption from service.
Altough laws, regulations or agreements do not
acknowledge its legitimacy, I have no doubts as to the
legitimacy of the stance I developed against decisions
being taken against my will. Total objection is the
demand to nullify the contract that has supposedly
been made between the society and the state or between

2) What kind of reactions did you get when you said
you were a total objector after you were taken in

That I said I was a total objector when I was taken in
custody was just met with astonishment. And I think
some people thought I was crazy. After a while I think
people came to an agreement that I must have been a
terrorist. Some of the police officers mentioned paid
military service, but it was again met with surprise
when I said I wouldn’t pay for it. >From the officers
in the police station to the guardian in prison, a lot
of people said things like “If you eat the bread of
this nation, you should pay for it.” I asked each of
them to tell me who produces that bread. Who is debt
whom? What is “nation”? The more questions I asked,
the less they decided to speak. The speaking
prohibiton brought to soldiers who guarded me during
my transfers, obviously reveals what the powerful feel
about the total objector. I guess it’s fear.

3) Did you find support while in prison or from within
the barracks? What were the reactions against you?

I didn’t generally get any negative reaction either
from prisoners or from soldiers on duty both in prison
and at the disiplinary jail in Tokat where I spent a
night. I received questions about the subject. I know
that the legal process is being followed with much
interest. The fact that I have not been subject to
violence despite the encouragement of the authorities,
can be considered a significant sign of support in
these circumstances.

4) Have you been subject to any negative treatment
throughout your imprisonement? Like violence or verbal

I did receive some negative reaction. Just at the time
of the flag crisis[some people trampled the Turkish
flag at a demonstration, and as a result shovenistic
rallying behind the flag began; a very nationalistic
and intolerant mood continues], Kardak [Islets in
sea, called Imia in Greek. A sovereignty conflict
arose between Turkey and Greece in 1996. It was
brought up again recently] and the events in Trabzon
[a mob attempted to lynch 5 people who were
distributing flyers against the F type isolation cells
in prisons. Other lynch attempts ensued when other
groups tried to
make press releases in different cities], I was really
frightened because I was branded as “a traitor” and a
“terrorist” and the people around me were manipulated.
In fact there was a lynch attempt during my first
night in prison. There is a legal procedure underway
regarding this event. What really gives me hope is
that the powers that be who manipulated the prisoners
so as to keep their own hands clean, did not succeed.
Right now I am not experiencing any problems with the
prisoners. Conscientous/Total objection somehow
garnered the support of prisoners and military
personnel who are in a way victims of the military
establishment themselves.

5) What kind of reaction did you get from the circles
close to you?

People who are close to me were already somewhat
prepared for something like this since my declaration
in 2001 and they were always by my side. My sister
is still in Sivas although I opposed it. I speak to
my only brother who went to military service and I
know he supports me. We did not disclose the matter to
my mom until the first trial, and my friends did not
leave her alone all this time. In fact my friend Ilke
is still living with her. I wrote a letter to my
mother after the trial and explained her what
I was worried about her health but she’s doing fine
now and she supports me. My family and friends did and
are still doing all they can for the campaign, I am
grateful to all of them for this.

6- Numerous solidarity groups were formed for you,
what do you think about that?

I knew solidarity groups would be formed but I could
not even dream that such intense efforts would be
spent and that such wide participation would take
place. This created an atmosphere that could almost
make the prison
process bearable. The participants prove that despite
all the repression and denial, no one has the power to
imprison the demand for peace. This reinforces my
belief for the day all of us shall be free.

7- When the prosecution realized you were gay, you
were transferred to the hospital. Everybody expected
that you would be declared “unfit for military
service” [the word used in Turkish is “rotten] This
did not happen, what do you make of this? How do you
this will affect the “unfit” report process?

My transfer to the hospital was officially justified
on the grounds of CMUK [Code of Criminal Procedure].
But it is obvious that the true reason is the fact
that I am gay. I refused the examinations at the
hospital and I said that my homosexuality cannot be
defined as a
pathology. I scratched the part of the document they
tried to make me sign which read “I accept all kinds
of medical intervention” and I wrote “I do not accept
any type of medical intervention” next to it and
signed it. I was transferred to General Surgery for
anal sex examination [probe the anus to see evidence
of anal sex] and I refused the inspection there as
well. Also I should relay that Sivas Military Hospital
demands a photograph [showing anal intercourse] for
evidence. I explained that just as heterosexuality,
homosexuality cannot be proven either, that no one has
a right to demand this and that it is not a desease.
After a one week observation (and it was more like
locking up,
because the hospital was far from being hygenic for a
hospital) period, the medical board decided that I was
not “unfit”(rotten); that is, I was eligible for
punishment. This decision can be regarded as a
revolution for military psychiatry. Although I refuse
it, I am defined as an “infantry soldier” on paper and
so there is a gay infantry soldier present in the army
right now. But another point that begs attention here
is that this is not even mentioned in the detailed
report presented to the court, and there is a
possibility that they decided I am not gay despite the
statement in my declaration. I don’t have a clear idea
as to how the report presented to the court could
affect the process of “unfit” status. Because what I
witnessed in the psychiatry service I stayed in was
that the hospital percieves all ailments or complaints
as claims put forward in order to get unfit status
granted. Almost every soldier (I can all all except
for criminal observation) who comes to the service is
administered a drug called “concrete.” This is a drug
that can cause serious spasms in the body shortly
after injection. The nurse to whom I asked why they
administered “concrete” to everyone, told me the drug
was used as a method of deterrence. In fact, the
patients who came to the hospital on their own will
for psychiatric treatment, begged to be released,
after a couple injections. Frankly, I don’t foresee
that such arbitrary military hospital procedures that
take place in secrecy will change, and the “unfit”
status regarding gays or all the degrading policies
that rob us of dignity will end any time soon. The
policy is so muddled; those who say they are gay are
not found credible; those who provide evidence are
given “unfit” status and those who don’t are deemed
heterosexual. As long as gays who apply for “unfit”
status accept the insults, I think the process will
continue as it is.

Mehmet Tarhan
Temeltepe / Sivas

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