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27.09.2006 - Source: Guardian

General Ilker Basbug, chief of land forces, attacks government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan by warning that danger of Islamism in the country was reaching "alarming" levels and that "Turkish armed forces will continue to take sides in protecting the national state" ("General insists army has role in politics") [ID 17729]

Document(s): Open document

09.08.2006 - Source: BBC News

Plans to cut armed forces by up to 30 percent in the next few years ("Big army cuts planned by Turkey") [ID 17579]

Document(s): Open document

10.2005 - Source: UK Home Office

Discrimination in the Armed Forces ("Country Report - October 2005") [#40563][ID 14415]

"5.160 The War Resisters International 2005 document stated that “There have been regular reports of Kurdish conscripts in particular being subjected to discriminatory treatment, especially when they are suspected of having separatist sympathies.” [53] (Section on Draft evasion)

5.161 The Netherlands report 2001 states that

“The armed forces operate a harsh regime. Non-commissioned officers and lieutenants in particular occasionally beat conscripts as a means of disciplining them. The use of insults – again by NCOs and lieutenants – to conscripts is a fairly regular occurrence…Harassment and discrimination by fellow soldiers or non-commissioned officers occur, depending in particular on the local commander. However, it is not possible to say that any single group suffers systematic discrimination. According to Turkish human rights organisations and former soldiers, in many cases the problems stem from conflicts between conscripts themselves.” [2b] (p49)

5.162 The Netherlands report 2001 reported that “Systematic discrimination against Kurdish conscripts can be ruled out. At the level of the unit in which conscripts serve, the situation is very often dependent on the individual commander.” In addition the report continued “There is therefore no systematic discrimination against conscripts who are known to be left wing activists. Again much depends on the commander of the respective unit.” [2b] (p50)

5.163 A Country of Origin Research of the Canada Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa dated 10 September 2004, entitled “Turkey: Military and societal treatment of homosexuals who have been deemed unfit to serve in the military and/or who have been discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation (January 2002 - September 2004)” gives an overview of these issues quoting a variety of sources. A stated in the report:

“GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Culture describes Turkey as having a ‘restrictive’ military policy on homosexuals (2004), which prohibits military service by homosexuals (GLBTQ 2004; Turkish Daily News 17 July 2003). The Turkish military officially recognizes homosexuals as ‘threats to the armed forces and discharges them for indecency if [their sexual orientation is] discovered’ (GLBTQ 2004). Homosexuality is deemed to be an illness by the military, and those who are affected by it are exempt from serving (Turkish Daily News 8 Sept. 2003; KAOS GL 31 Oct. 2002; ibid. 2002; The Nonviolent Activist July-August 2002). Homosexuals seeking exemption are required to provide the military with a photograph of themselves while on the receiving end of anal intercourse as proof of their sexual orientation (ibid. see also KAOS GL 31 Oct. 2002; ibid. 2002)… KAOS GL, an advocacy group based in Turkey and aimed at combating discrimination against homosexuals (9 Sept. 2004), reported that in reality, very few conscripts apply to the military for exemption from military service on the basis of their sexual orientation because homosexuals who are exempted from military service on this basis face ‘repressive Islamic social pressures’ (The Nonviolent Activist July-Aug. 2002) and problems in respect of employment opportunities and social acceptance (KAOS GL 31 Oct. 2002).” [7e]

5.164 As reported by the Turkish Daily News on 13 August 2005:

“A military court’s decision to sentence a gay Turkish conscientious objector to a record four-year prison term is a ‘political sentence’ and actually serves only to intimidate all conscientious objectors as well as homosexuals in Turkey, his lawyers claimed yesterday. Mehmet Tarhan, a pacifist and gay rights activist who refused to serve his compulsory military service, was arrested in April [2005] and interned in a military prison in the central Anatolian province of Sivas…After being arrested and imprisoned in April, Tarhan was asked to apply for a discharge from the army on the grounds that he is an openly homosexual man, but he refused to do so, calling it discrimination. In June [2005] a judge ordered his release because he had already served the minimum three-month term of imprisonment and returned to his army unit. However, Tarhan was subsequently charged by the Turkish Military Penal Code (TACK) with Article 88, namely, ‘Insubordination in front of the unit,’ which carries a penalty of between three months and five years’ imprisonment. The court duly dealt with the original offense and the second one – Article 88 – and sentenced Tarhan to a four-year and a two-year sentence of imprisonment to run concurrently. The defendant’s lawyers announced they have appealed both sentences.” [23ai]

5.165 As stated in an Amnesty International public appeal of 8 June 2005:

“Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan who has been subjected to death threats and beatings by other prisoners since his imprisonment on 11 April [2005] and the delay in ensuring his safety by the prison authorities after the abuses were reported… When Mehmet Tarhan informed prison authorities of the abuse no immediate action was taken to ensure his safety and the abuse reportedly continued. After his lawyer learned about the abuse, she raised her concerns for his safety with the prison administration and an investigation into the alleged abuse was opened and some action was then taken by the prison authorities to protect him…Amnesty International considers Mehmet Tarhan to be a prisoner of conscience, prosecuted for his conscientiously-held beliefs, and calls for his immediate release. The organization also urges the Turkish authorities to introduce an alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors which is not discriminatory or punitive…Amnesty International is concerned that the right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized by the authorities, and provisions do not exist for an alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors…In recent years in Turkey there have been a small number of conscientious objectors who have publicly stated their refusal to carry out military service. They are usually subject to criminal prosecution.” [12t]"

Document(s): Open document

10.2005 - Source: UK Home Office

Military Service ("Country Report - October 2005") [#40563][ID 14416]

"5.137 The Freedom House report ‘Countries at the Crossroads 2005 – Turkey, noted that:

“The military holds a special place in the Turkish republic. Since Turkey’s first military coup, in 1960, it has acted as the guarantor of Turkey’s secularism, territorial integrity, and government functioning… While it has never stayed in power long, it used the first and subsequent coups, in 1971 and 1980, to increase its autonomy and enhance its role during civilian rule…Reducing the political influence of the military has been a prime concern of the EU. Beginning with the 2001 constitutional amendments, Turkey has confined the NSC to an advisory role with, as of August 2004, a civilian at its head; it has removed the military members from the higher education council and RTUK; and it has increased transparency and parliamentary oversight of military expenditures. The military is still not entirely subservient to the ministry of defense, and its budget remains disproportionately high…Public trust in the military is strong, and military schools are among the best in the country, thus contributing to the continued power and prestige of this institution.” [62] (p14)

5.138 The Netherlands report on military service in Turkey July 2001 noted that:

“The army and military service are held in high regard by a large section of the population…The army’s popularity stems partly from the fact that public opinion is convinced that it is more or less immune from the corruption, which is widespread in Turkey…The performance of military service is regarded by a large part of the population as a rite of passage ‘to become a man’. There are parents who will not allow their daughters to marry someone who has not yet performed his military service, and companies often prefer to employ someone who has discharged his military obligations.” [2b] (p12)

5.139 As recorded in Europa World online, Turkey: Defence (website accessed on 8 October 2005) “The total strength of the active armed forces at 1 August 2004 was 514,850 (including 391,000 conscripts), comprising an army of 402,000, a navy of 52,750 and an air force of 60,100. There was a gendarmerie numbering 150,000 and a coast guard of 2,200. Reserve forces totalled 378,700 in the armed forces and 50,000 in the gendarmerie.” [1e] (Turkey: Defence)

5.140 According to Article 1 of the Military Act No.1111 (1927) every male Turkish citizen is obliged to carry out military service. [25] (p1) The Netherlands report 2001 states that the obligation commences on 1 January of the year in which a male citizen becomes 19 years old, and ends on 1 January of the year in which he reaches the age of 40. (The Turkish way of counting age differs from that in Western Europe, and this accounts for the fact that the Military Act refers to the 20th and 41st years). [2b] (p10)

5.141 The Turkish Daily News reported that on 17 July 2003 as part of reforms to increase the professionalism of the armed forces the standard length of military service was reduced from 18 months to 15 months. Some university graduates serving as officers are now conscripted for 12 months instead of the previous 16, while some privates will serve for six months instead of eight. This change has lead to a 17 percent reduction in the number of conscripts in the Turkish armed forces. [23d]

5.142 The Netherlands report 2001 reported that “Persons of call-up age are not usually issued with passports, and cannot have passports renewed. In a small number of cases, and with the consent of the military authorities, a passport with a short period of validity is issued. The entry ‘yapmiştir’ (done) or ‘yapmamiştir’ (not done) in the passport indicates whether the holder has completed military service or not.” [2b] (p15)"

Document(s): Open document

02.06.2005 -

Military - Overview ("World Factbook 2005: Turkey - Military") [ID 14417]

"Military branches:
Turkish Armed Forces (TSK): Land Forces, Naval Forces (includes Naval Air and Naval Infantry), Air Force

Military manpower - military age and obligation:
20 years of age (2004)

Military manpower - availability:
males age 20-49: 16,756,323 (2005 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 20-49: 13,905,901 (2005 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 679,734 (2005 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$12.155 billion (2003)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
5.3% (2003)

Military - note:
in the early 1990s, the Turkish Land Force was a large but badly equipped infantry force; there were 14 infantry divisions, but only one was mechanized, and out of 16 infantry brigades, only six were mechanized; the overhaul that has taken place since has produced highly moblie forces with greatly enhanced firepower in accordance with NATO's new strategic concept (2005)"

Document(s): World Factbook 2005: Turkey - Military

11.03.2004 - Source: Frankfurter Rundschau

Türkisches Militär lässt Bürger bespitzeln ("Türkisches Militär lässt Bürger bespitzeln") [#20424][ID 14418]

Document(s): Open document

20.10.2003 - Source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (formerly Global IDP Project)

Report focussed on internal displacement as a major concern in the OSCE area/ 3 million people who were forced to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict or human rights violations still wait for durable solutions to their plight ("Protecting internally displaced persons in the OSCE area: A neglected commitment") [#17054][ID 14419]

"The most common form of displacement was the forced eviction of entire villages by Turkish security forces. The Government justified this practice as a means of protecting civilians and depriving the PKK of logistical support. Another factor leading to displacement has been the "village guard" system. Village guards, comprised of villagers pressured to join, and their families have been the target of deliberate and arbitrary killing by the PKK. The refusal of villagers to join the guard has often been followed by the evacuation of their villages by Turkish security forces, carried out in the most brutal ways, with reports of property destruction, rape, torture and extra-judicial executions. The European Court of Human Rights has found Turkey responsible for violations of the European Human Rights Conventions in numerous cases of arbitrary evictions, property destruction, disappearances and torture. [...]

However, a number of serious impediments to return remain. According to Human Rights Watch, inadequate government assistance and continued violence and harassment by security forces and village guards discourage returns or even cause returnees to flee again. The Government's return plans have failed to meet international standards and have therefore not attracted international funding. With regard to the `Back to the Villages' programme, only a few villagers have in fact been given permission to return to their homes. Moreover, "authorised" returnees have often not been allowed to enter their villages by the local military, or have been forced to sign forms stating that they were displaced due to terrorism. HRW has criticised the programme as being largely fictional with most abandoned settlements remaining no-go areas."

Document(s): Open document

01.09.2001 - Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHCR: The Military Establishment ("Background Paper on Refugees and Asylum Seekers from Turkey") [#47163][ID 14421]

"In 1960, 1971 and 1980 Turkish military leaders intervened to uphold the principles on which the constitution is based upon and to preserve internal law and order. On each occasion the armed forces emphasised their commitment to democratic principles and returned Turkey to civilian rule. However, in accordance with the Constitution, all important foreign policy and national security questions are still discussed by the National Security Council. In addition to political power, the military authorities also wield considerable economic power. In the 1960s, it created the Armed Forces Mutual Assistance Fund (OYAK), one of the largest investment companies in Turkey. OYAK is active in the automobile, petroleum, insurance, food processing, construction, banking and import–export sectors."

Document(s): Open document