Turkish conscientious objector Mehmet Bal was arrested in June, reports campaigning group Payday (www.refusingtokill.net). Having been held in custody at Besiktas Military Prison, where he was beaten by duty officers, Bal was later sent to the Hasdal Military Prison. Officers in charge there incited other inmates to ‘do what was necessary’. His fellow prisoners beat him with sticks until he passed out, then dragged him into the cold showers so that he could regain consciousness and be beaten again.
After the attacks, Bal was taken to Gümüssuyu Military Hospital but was not admitted, despite being unable to move his neck, legs or arms. He is now in Adana Military Prison, hundreds of kilometres from his home in Istanbul.
Up to half a million men are thought to be refusing military draft in Turkey, in brave defiance of the country’s long history of persecuting and torturing political prisoners. Campaigners say that the European Union must make the end of such treatment a precondition of any talks about Turkey’s accession. Its persecution of conscientious objectors is also in direct contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it ratified in 2003.
‘The Turkish military does not hesitate to use torture to try to break the resilience [of conscientious objectors],’ explains Payday’s Michael Kalmanovitz. ‘It needs men to serve in its decades-long war against Kurdish people… We in the international anti-war movement must support Mehmet Bal and other conscientious objectors. Soldiers’ refusal is vital to ending war.’