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To be a conscientious objector in a country where this right is not recognised is not easy. The case of Ismail Saygi, a Turkish conscientious objector who declared his objection after having served seven month of military service, and who now withdrew his CO declaration following his arrest and maltreatment in military prison highlights the hardship objectors may face. It also highlights that not all of us can be "heroes", and one of the dangers inherent in any CO movement in a country without the right to CO is the promotion of a different kind of "heroic masculine CO", who under all circumstances stands up to his own conviction in the face of repression.

It is important to remain aware that we all are human beings, and not everyone can face up to maltreatment and violence, and keep resisting. An important aspect of nonviolence is to recognise and accepts our own limits, although we might be able - through training and working with each other in affinity groups - to stretch those limits, and expand what we are capable of doing. Still, it is important to accept the choices people make when they reach their limits, even though we might not like it. This means it is important to accept the choice made by Ismail Saygi, and not to condemn him and to withdraw support.

In many countries legal attempts to define the term "conscience" have added to the problem. Conscience is often not only defined as oriented towards "good" and "evil", but often also included is the requirement that acting against one's conscience needs to lead to some form of "damage" - turning conscientious objectors from political human beings into psychopaths.

It is important for us a conscientious objectors to reject this notion of "conscience", and to highlight conscientious objection as a political decision and action against militarism. It is not about individual exemptions for "reasons of conscience", but about a political struggle against the militarisation of every aspect of our lives - resistance to war.

Andreas Speck

Veröffentlicht in CO-Update, April 2008, No. 38