BDP Sebahat Tuncel’s Parliamentary Question on the Military

Source: Sebahat Tuncel, “Soru Önergesi,” “Parliamentary Question,” 3 May 2012,

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey
Peace and Democracy Party
No: 992
Date: 03.05.2012

To the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Speaker’s Office:

I request that the Minister of National Defense Mr. İsmet Yılmaz provide written replies to the questions I hereby submit, in accordance with the 98th bylaw of the Constitution and the 99th bylaw of the Standing Orders.

Sebahat Tuncel,

Istanbul Deputy

Mandatory military service has been abolished in nearly every European country, yet it continues in Turkey today. Many youths are against the mandatory military system for conscientious, political or belief-related reasons, by objecting to militarism or due to their sexual orientation. The right to object to mandatory military service is included in international agreements and it is recognized as a “right” in law. However, such objection is still viewed as a crime in Turkey. Those who suffer most in relation to this are young men who wish not to serve in the military due to their sexual orientation. Unlike the respect they receive in democratic countries, in Turkey, those with different sexual orientations are considered to have “character disorders.” They are subjected to pressure and othering by the state and multiple sectors of society.

Since the initiation of the republic, the state has been engaged in an effort to dominate and homogenize society. This has been facilitated by the militaristic state structure where all difference in society is considered “antagonistic” and oppressed through the use of armed force. It is within this framework that we see those with different sexual orientations being pressured – both in regard to mandatory military service and in everyday aspects of society. If we take into consideration the fact that the pressure exerted by mandatory military service affects every aspect of society, it is possible to see how this pressure is multiplied in relation to those with different sexual orientations.

The most recent example that demonstrates this sort of pressure is the case of Erkan Altay in Istanbul. He objected to military service because he was “homosexual” and demanded an “unfit to serve in the military” report. The reply Erkan Altay received from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is a reflection of how the state structure describes different sexual orientations. Doctors at the Haydarpaşa Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA) described Erkan Altay’s homosexuality as a “psychosexual disorder” and presented him with a report saying: “Fit for military service, cannot serve as a commando.”

Erkan Altay stated that he is a reporter for Kaos GL, an LGBT association, and that he is working on a university graduation thesis on homosexuality. Despite this, and even though he presented his academic work on homosexuality, he stated that he was handed a report declaring he is “neurotic” and “fit for military service.”

1.     First of all, considering that mandatory military service is oppressive for all sectors of society and that this system is far from representing a democratic country, does your Ministry engage in any work towards abolishing mandatory military service? When do you plan to include a project on conscientious objection as a legal right in your agenda at the Parliament?

2.     In total, how many people are there who have declared a different sexual orientation and demanded an “unfit to serve in the military” report? How many of these requests were granted?

3.     How many people are there who have been handed a “fit for military service” report even though they had declared different sexual orientations, similar to Erkan Altay? What are the justifications presented to those whose objection requests are not granted?

4.     What are the requirements made of those who wish not to serve in the military due to their sexual orientation, prior to granting them an “unfit for service” report?

5.     Following up on Question 4, is it true that persons declaring different sexual orientations are asked to provide photos or videos of sexual intercourse – an inhumane request that violates personal rights?  If this is indeed true, are there any efforts to abolish this practice?

6.     Do you have any projects that aim to issue military service waivers to persons with different sexual orientations?

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