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“I hereby declare my conscientious objection“
Letter to the Turkish military authorities
by Kerem Koç
Officers of the Turkish Armed Forces:
After having read, researched, discussed, and prayed about compulsory military service for many years, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot participate in military service with a clear conscience and with freedom of will.
The fact that the military is committed to the defense of our nation is worthy of both praise and respect. In other words, I am not opposed to a standing military in principle, nor service in the cause of defense. I am, however, against the ongoing civil war/conflict in this country, which has resulted in the death of thousands of individuals over many years, and which receives an allocation of national resources far exceeding that which is devoted to more humanitarian causes, such as the public health and educational systems, and an appreciation of Turkish culture, ethos, and art.
I therefore refuse all militarist impositions and claims to ultimate sovereignty over my person. I cannot support an institution in which militarist world views and politics are sovereign, and where hatred leads brother to kill brother over race, religion, or language. For this reason, I will not be part of any armed force. Human beings are created in God's image, and are more important than any geopolitical boundaries or notions of ethnic territory. I believe people should live together in peace.
In addition to the aforementioned issues, military service is also an effective obstacle to fulfilling my obligations as a father and a husband. I cannot accept any impositions which hinder me from the responsibility to love, protect, and provide for my family. In such a situation, not myself alone, but also my wife and child will experience both material and spiritual difficulties. Moreover, I would not only be prevented from attending prayers on Sunday, and be forbidden to worship of Lord God of heaven and earth, which is a denial of freedom of worship, but might also be placed in an armed conflict, required to shed the blood of fellow Turkish citizens or other human beings. I cannot and will not be accomplice to such sin.
In any system dominated by militarism, peace cannot be attained. It is not possible to live in peace in a community which continually devotes public funds to pay for newer and more technologically advanced death machines to kill people. The Turkish nation has been involved in war and conflict for many centuries, and the spirit of militarism is reflected in the community, even being a source of pride to our people. My beliefs, however, oblige me to be a peacemaker, and I strongly believe the Word of God, which commands us to “love one another”.
Let me make clear, however, that I do not absolutely forsake my duty to the state, which is a civic duty. On the contrary, I am ready to perform, with all my heart and will, any job which is compatible with the Word of God in which I believe. Because of this, I request to be given public service work which will not restrict my family responsibilities, religion, or freedom of conscience. Otherwise, I could not conscientiously obey the authority of the Word of God, which is the highest authority there is. If I am not able to do this, I will accept the penalties sanctioned by law.
My prayer is that the hatred and rage, which has existed among us for so many years, would cease. Thus, Laz and Circassia, Turk and Kurd, Alevi and Sunni, Muslim and Christian, could live together in peace, respecting and loving one another in a land where all races, religions, and languages are treated equally, and where brother no longer kills brother.
According to the testimony of the Holy Bible, a Christian lives in this world but does not belong to this world. Therefore, I cannot submit to nationalistic slogans like “Every Turk is born a soldier”, nor philosophies where land and flag are given more importance than human beings, where only those who are willing to die or kill others are considered heroes. This worldview I cannot accept, nor will I accept.
I hereby declare my conscientious objection, as a man who grew up in a military household, the son of a career Noncommissioned Officer in the Turkish Armed Forces. And I refuse all privileges which I might otherwise enjoy, as a result of my father's military service.
I am not a deserter. I'm not running away. I only refuse to fulfill any armed service, for the above-mentioned reasons.
Blessed are the Peacemakers.
Pastor Kerem Koç: Declaration to the Turkish military authorities. November 12, 2012.