Turkish Armed Forces

A gay man’s conscript experience: I would use SPF 50 sunscreen on sunny days

Source: Ayşe Arman, “Bir gay’in askerlik anıları: Güneşli havalarda, 50 faktör güneş kremi sürüyordum”, (“A gay man’s conscript experience: I would use SPF 50 sunscreen in sunny days”), Hürriyet Kelebek, 16 August 2014, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/hayat/27009085.asp

“All men born in Turkey must serve in the military when they reach a certain age. Well, I was born here too and I am a man…”

“I am gay and I have just returned from the military upon the completion of my military service. You have published several stories on the ordeals gay men, homosexuals and trans individuals must go through in order to avoid serving in the military. As for me, I would like to explain to you why I chose to serve and tell you of my experiences during military service. Would you be interested?”

I called him immediately and we met for an interview.

Kaan Arer is an impressive man. He is educated and knowledgeable, frank and sincere and very intelligent as well. He is a mathematician and the winner of a TÜBİTAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) award.

He requested that we not reveal his face in the photos accompanying this article as he continues to work as a teacher.

Kaan Arer has a blog where writes about homosexuality.

Some of his pieces are quite brave. He has written about an occasion, during his military service, when his boyfriend visited him on a day off. He wrote of how they made love in a café restroom. His description of this event, quite far from being tawdry, is sensitive and elegant.

I wish him all the best in his life as a mathematician and as a writer.

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Objectionable homosexuals will not serve in the military!

Source: Murat Gürgen, “‘Sakıncalı’ eşcinseller askere gitmeyecek!,” (“Objectionable homosexuals will not serve in the military!,”) Haberturk, 06 February 2013, http://www.haberturk.com/polemik/haber/817610-sakincali-escinseller-askere-gitmeyecek

And photos will not be required…

Alterations made in the Turkish Armed Forces Health Legislation have been published in the Official Gazette, the official publication of the Turkish state. A new regulation has been issued regarding the status of homosexuals, a topic which has recently been under heated debate. The new regulations state that if homosexual tendencies have been present throughout the individual’s life and if this situation can cause “objections” during his military service he would be given certificate being deemed “unfit to serve in the military” and exempted from service.

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Kaos GL’s Military Brochure for Homosexuals

Source: Kaos GL, “Eşçinseller için Askerlik Broşürü: Eşcinseller ve Askerlik Sorunları ve Bu Konu ile İlgili Yasal Mevzuat,” (“Military Brochure for Homosexuals: The Problem of the Military and Homosexuality and the Legal Regulations,”) kaosGL.org, January 2013, http://www.kaosgldernegi.org/resim/yayin/dl/kaosgl_askerlik_brosuru.pdf

The Problem of the Military and Homosexuality and the Legal Regulations

The Call to the Military

According to Article 14 of the Military Code, the draft is the process of determining whether a person who has reached the age of military service is fit to serve in the military by checking their health, their education status, profession, and personal character.

Every October, the Ministry of Interior informs the Ministry of National Defense about the identification of people who have reached the age of military service.

The draft for people who reach the age of military service begins on 1 January every year and continues until the end of the summons and dispatch of that year’s soldiers.

The process begins when you are called to the military and declare your homosexuality to the command post you are attached to. Once you declare your intention to get a report, you are sent to the military hospital.

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The Military and the ‘Gays’

Source: Mehveş Evin, “Askerlik ve ‘gay’ler,” (The Military and the ‘Gays’,”) Milliyet, 17 November 2010,  http://cadde.milliyet.com.tr/2013/11/07/YazarDetay/1315132/askerlik-ve-gay-ler

When it comes to the “headscarf” debates, the words “fundamental rights” and “freedoms” are flying around. Well, what about the rights of those who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation?

If Der Spiegel had not reported on the issue, it would have continued to be an urban legend. The German magazine ran the headline “Porn for the General” and reported that homosexual men are asked to present documents along with photos and videos to the Turkish military as proof of their sexuality in order to be approved for exemption from service. The news have entered mainstream Turkish press, while the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have denied it. Thus, the TSK, for the first time in its history, has delivered an opinion on homosexuality.

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What happens to a gay man in the barracks?

Source: Ulaş Gürpınar, “Bir eşcinselin başına kışlada neler gelir?” (“What happens to a gay man in the barracks?”) Agos, 19 August 2013, http://www.agos.com.tr/haber.php?seo=bir-escinselin-basina-kislada-neler-gelir&haberid=5557

Military service is defined as “service to the homeland.” The treatment that homosexual men are deemed worthy of in the process that leads to the bestowing of their “unfit to serve in the military” report tramples on the most basic of human rights. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) continue their resistance against “protecting the rights of homosexuals” in the New Constitutional Reconciliation Commission. In the meantime, a homosexual man’s (Ü.G.) experiences, hard even to read, bluntly demonstrate why there is a need for constitutional protection.

We have had numerous opportunities to read about the process through which homosexual men in Turkey (do not) get recruited for military service. There are multiple instances when photos during sexual intercourse were required as “proof” of homosexuality and videos were requested upon the decision that the photos were “insufficient” due to various reasons. Then again, there are men who have been unable to prove their homosexuality to the army and were thus forced to serve in the military.

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Gender Identity “Disorder”

Source: “F64.9: Cinsel Kimlik ‘Bozukluğu’,” (“F64.9: Gender Identity ‘Disorder’,”) kaosGL.org, 07 January 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=15547

Serdar, who received an “unfit to serve in the military” (F64.9 gender identity disorder, undefined) report, shared his experience with KaosGL.org:

I am a lucky gay man. I am 29 years old and well-mannered. My family knows about my homosexuality and I live with my boyfriend of five years. I want to retell my experiences of the process I went through in detail so that people can access this information easily online.

Because I could not decide on whether or not to get the report for military exemption after graduation, I registered with the Open Education Faculty at a second university to benefit from deferment.

First, I had to break the deferment and go to the bureau to state that I wanted to join army. After this statement, I immediately said, “I wanted to be referred to the hospital.”  The authorities at the recruitment office asked me to see a family doctor to get a report. I returned to the recruitment office with the report I received from a primary health care center and I was directly sent to the Gülhane Military Medical Faculty (GATA) (Üsküdar and Kadıköy recruitment offices refer to the GATA directly instead of having to go from one hospital to another.)

“He is quite feminine, he has one-night stands and he sleeps with anyone he likes”

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Military Exemption: “Draw the chimney long- it represents the penis!”

Source: Ayşe Arman, “Bacayı uzun çiz, penisi temsil ediyor!” (“Draw the chimney long- it represents the penis!”) Hürriyet, 11 January 2014, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/cumartesi/25543414.asp

“I am a homosexual university graduate,” so started the e-mail. “I have been dealing with military affairs since September. I have been trying to get the report indicating I am not suitable to do my military service. I finally succeeded! However, it was really difficult. I have been exposed to all kinds of humiliation and insult. If you are interested, I would like to share my experience on the current military practices on the issue, just to inform other gay men who do not want to go to the military. I called him immediately. We met and talked.

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