Cyprus: Conscientious objectors on trial for refusing reserve duty

On 14 June 2011, two conscientious objectors of the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus held a press conference in front of the Turkish Military Court in Nicosia. The reason for this was the beginning of the trial of Murat Kanatli, who has been refusing his reserve duty since 2009.

Nevzat Hami of the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus said: "Peace is our duty for our homeland, conscientious objection is our right" and stated that the initiative would be supporting all individuals who do not accept the effects of militarism and view militarism as a barrier for peace, democratisation and demilitarisation, and would endeavour to remedy the problems they face. He continued: "As the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus, we call everyone to confront the rulers, the system and war, in the framework of conscientious objection."

"This call is to those who lost something from themselves in the war which continue in Cyprus for years, mothers who send sons to the army and suffer, young people who cannot see the future because of military service, Cypriots who are forced to live away from their homeland; in short this is a call to all individuals, all men and women."

We will not take sides in war, so we will not join in preparations for war,” Murat Kanatli told the press under the watchful eye of plain-clothes police outside the military court. “At the end of the hearing, the court will probably fine me. But I will refuse to pay, so one way or another they will have to imprison me,” he told Cyprus Mail later.

Murat Kanatli explains his conscientious objection: "I, Murat Kanatlı, as someone who has been active in the anti-militarist movement for the last 20 years, have worked actively in Salih Askeroğlu’s conscientious objection campaign in 1993. Since 1993, with so many other activists, we have requested at different levels, for the right of conscientious objection to become legal. Finally in December 2007, we have established The Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus. We have since voiced our demand for this right to also be legalised in the northern part of Cyprus."

In the Turkish occupied northern part of Cyprus, all men between the ages of 19 and 30 are liable for military service. The length of military service is 15 months. A reduced term of service is possible for those who are considered as Turkish Cypriot citizens and who reside abroad. In addition to that, reserve duty applies until age 40. Refusal to participate in reserve duty can be punished by a fine, or with up to one month imprisonment, or both. Murat Kanatli made it very clear that he would refuse to pay any fine.

The hearing on 14 June did not last long. The judge adjourned the trial to 5 July, because a panel of three judges is needed to rule on the case. On 5 July, the hearing was again adjourned to 26 July, as there was not sufficient time on that day.

Sources: Emails by Murat Kanatli to ebcoboard email list; Cyprus Mail: ‘I would rather go to jail than do army service’ , 15 June 2011; War Resisters' International: Country reports and updates: Cyprus, 25 September 2009