Current requirements for military service in Turkey, particularly regarding age, length of service, draft, exemption conditions; recognition of alternative service and accepted avenues for military exemption; current penalties for failure to perform military service [TUR37575.E]

Military service in Turkey is carried out in accordance with Article 72 of the Constitution, which states:

National service is the right and duty of every Turk. The manner in which this service shall be performed, or considered as performed, either in the Armed Forces or in the public service, shall be regulated by law (Office of the Prime Minister 23 July 1995).

Military service is compulsory for all males 20 years of age or older regardless of their ethnic background (UNHCR/ACCORD 13 Nov. 2000; WRI 18 Apr. 1997; UN16 Jan. 1997). According to information contained in a survey conducted by War Resisters International, all males are registered for the draft at age 19 (18 Apr. 1997). In cities, the police issue a summons to all potential conscripts asking them to report to their local police stations where they are then taken to the military recruitment office to be officially registered (ibid). In rural areas, registration is carried out by the gendarmerie (ibid). After undergoing and passing a medical examination at age 20, recruits are issued a military identification card and a call-up notice either in the form of written or oral notification or an announcement in the local press (ibid).

Length of service is 18 months for soldiers in the ranks and 12 to 16 months for university graduates completing their service as officers (UN/ACCORD 13 Nov. 2000; AI 15 April 1997). In principle men can be called to service until the age of 65, however, in practice, men over 46 years of age are no longer called (WRI 18 Apr. 1997; UN 16 Jan. 1997).

There are no provisions for alternative service on conscientious grounds or regulations permitting an individual to perform an entirely unarmed service, although, since 18 April 1987, after they complete three months basic training, all individuals in military service may apply to do service in other public institutions (WRI 18 Apr. 1997; UN 16 Jan. 1997). Depending on the political climate of the time, certain professional groups such as teachers, doctors and civil servants may be allowed to perform alternate service (WRI 18 Apr. 1997). For example, teachers willing to work in the southeast may be granted an exemption from military service (ibid). The Embassy of Turkey was unable to provide further information on this topic within the time constraints of the response.

For information regarding exemption from military service please refer to TUR34964.E of 18 July 2000 and TUR34520.E of 8 June 2000.

A 4 May 2001 report produced by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for the Council of Europe noted that "since the law makes no provision for any form of alternative service, conscientious objectors are treated as deserters and the military criminal code is strictly enforced." Article 63 of the Military Penal Code stipulates that draft evasion or desertion is punishable by anywhere from one month to three years imprisonment in a correction facility (UNHCR/ACCORD 13 Nov. 2000; WRI 18 Apr. 1997). Similarly, there is no legal right contained in Turkish law to conscientious objection and public declarations of conscientious objection are punishable under Turkey's Penal Code (UNHCR/ACCORD 13 Nov. 2000; HWR Sept. 2000; IHF 25 May 2000; WRI 18 Apr. 1997; UN 16 Jan. 1997). When implemented, Article 377 of the draft penal code would impose up to two years imprisonment on conscientious objectors for "alienating people from the institution of military service" (HWR Sept. 2000). This draft Article is reportedly a restatement of the current Article 155 (criticism of military service) under which the Turkish courts, as of the end of 2000, continue to prosecute conscientious objectors (IHF 25 May 2001; HRW Sept. 2000). Article 155 was also used in the repeated imprisonment of the conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke (ibid). A report prepared by the General Assembly's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1997 noted that "even persons who discuss the subject openly, as a number of journalists have done, are being prosecuted" (UN 16 Jan. 1997).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 15 April 1997. Out of the Margins: The Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Europe. [Accessed 21 August 2001]

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. 4 May 2001. Exercise of the Right of Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Council of Europe Member States. (report prepared for the Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe) [Accessed 16 August 2001]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). September 2000. Human Rights and the European Union Accession Partnership. [Accessed 21 August 2001]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 25 May 2001. Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America. [Accessed 21 August 2001]

Office of the Prime Minister. Directorate General of Press and Information. 23 July 1995. Constitution of the Republic of Turkey. [Accessed 21 August 2001]

United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Commission on Human Rights. 16 January 1997. (E/CN.4/1997/99). Report of the Secretary-General on the Question of Conscientious Objection to Military Service. [Accessed 16 August 2001]

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (ACCORD). 13 November 2000. "Turkey: Country Report." (Presented by Ayliz Baskin and Gerlinde Wachter at the 6th European Country of Origin Information Seminar 13 November 2000). [Accessed 20 August 2001]

War Resisters International (WRI). 18 April 1997. "Turkey." (contained in Refusing to Bear Arms: A Worldwide Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service, Conscription and Conscientious Objection, Documentation Project) [Accessed 22 August 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

Oral sources:

Istanbul Anti-militarist Initiative was unwilling to provide information

Izmir War Resisters Association was unwilling/unable to provide information

Unsuccessful attempts to contact Turkey Coordinator, Middle East/North Africa Program, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights

Unsuccessful attempts to contact War Resisters International

Unsuccessful attempts to contact European Bureau for Conscientious Objection

Internet sites, including:

Amnesty International



European Bureau for Conscientious Objection

Quaker Council for European Affairs

War Resisters International

World News Connection