Conscientious objection

Military and monarchy: trip report from a visit to Thailand

Related peace activists: 

Hannah visited Thailand as part of the Right to Refuse to Kill Programme's work to support conscientious objection, and movements against conscription.

Memorials to Bhumibol Adulyadej seen in train stations and public spacesMemorials to Bhumibol Adulyadej seen in train stations and public spacesWhen I arrived in Bangkok in November, many people were in mourning Bhumibol Adulyadej - the king who died on 13th October after seven decades on the throne. I travelled there along with Jungmin Choi and Yongsuk Lee, two members of World Without War (WRI's affiliate in Korea).

This period of mourning was evident in peoples' homes, in public spaces, and in the very atmosphere of cities and town. Festivals were cancelled or curtailed, most people still dressing in black (or wearing black ribbons) over a month after his death, and memorials and commemorative videos found in bus stations, temples, and the metro.

Alongside this respect for the monarch lies a coercive tradition: Thailand's strict lèse-majesté laws (prohibiting criticism of the royal family) inhibit freedom of speech, and have been used against activists as a weapon. Dissent is a social taboo, as well as illegal under Article 112 of the Penal Code. Although the lèse-majesté laws only apply to the King, Queen, Royal Heir (now Rama X), and Regent, they have been widely used for suppression, even for those who mock the King’s favourite dog, Thong Daeng (Copper), and the Crown Prince’s poodle Foo Foo, who was elevated to the status of Air Marshal, complete with uniform. Many are arrested for innocuous Facebook comments and hyperlinks.

Since the most recent coup of 2014, a military government has been in place, and their rhetoric reinforces their position as protector and champion of the monarchy. So it was an interesting time to visit Thailand for the first time!

Thursday is Prisoners for peace day: support those who refuse to occupy

1st December is Prisoners for Peace Day: a chance to show solidarity with those imprisoned or their work for peace. Use this list to contact those currently in jail.

During November and December, Tamar Alon, Atalya Ben Abba and Tamar Ze'evi will refuse to conscript and serve the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. So this Prisoners for Peace Day we are also organising an international day of action with Mesarvot (a network of Israeli organisations, groups and individuals who support political conscientious objectors) when we declare: THEY REFUSE to serve the occupation, WE refuse to profit from it. Vigils will take place outside arms manufacturing facilities and other locations calling on governments to stop arming the Israeli occupation rather than profiting from it. Could you arrange an action near you? Contact mesarvot.im@gmail.com, and share the Facebook event.

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Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil: Activists in Israel dress as soldiers to take part in a protest, in solidarity with imprisoned conscientious objectorsHear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil: Activists in Israel dress as soldiers to take part in a protest, in solidarity with imprisoned conscientious objectorsDear friends,

My name is Taya, and I am writing from the Israeli organisation Mesarvot. We support conscientious objectors who refuse to be conscripted into the Israeli military.

I am writing to ask you to support War Resisters' International, to enable this important network to continue its unique work, building solidarity among antimilitarist activists across the world. Please consider how you can support WRI financially today.

Just under a year ago, I had the opportunity to spend a wonderful three months as an intern at the WRI office. At first, as I looked at other countries and learnt of the militarism and war happening around the world, and identified the same patterns of oppression and violence I know from Israel, I was discouraged. What impact can we possibly hope to have? But this feeling was soon replaced by excitement, at the revelation that in all of these places there are people resisting, creating alternatives, countering militarism, working alongside me, even if they are thousands of kilometres away.

International solidarity for draft refusers in Israel

In Israel, one of the main roles of the military is to maintain the occupation and military rule over millions of Palestinians. Both women and men are drafted, and the military is seen not only as crucial for maintaining Israel’s “security”, but also as making a wider contribution to society. Conscientious objectors in Israel defy political and social norms and “pay a price” for doing so. Sometimes this takes the form of a prison sentence - if they decide to outright refuse military service - and more often in the form of social criticism or isolation. The difficulties faced by conscientious objectors in Israel emphasise the importance of the ongoing international solidarity for us here in Mesarvot network.

Thanks to our links with WRI, real, tangible international solidarity has become possible. For conscientious objectors in Israel, and for the Mesarvot network who support them, this solidarity is significant; working with WRI means we are now connected with supporters all over the world. The WRI network has taken on our campaign as its own, by offering creative ideas, connections, and support, alongside a deeper understanding of what may work in each context. Connecting with WRI has helped us to link with other people and organisations who may be able to help.

Just a few examples of WRI’s support include:

  • mobilising international solidarity for the five imprisoned conscientious objectors we’ve supported so far,
  • coordinating a statement of support from other conscientious objectors in the eastern Mediterranean region,
  • running a social media campaign in support of those in prison,
  • organising activists to write personal letters to conscientious objectors in prison,
  • and helping us to organise an international day of action in solidarity with conscientious objectors and against companies arming and profiting from the occupation (for more information on how to take part in these actions, see the Prisoners for Peace day list here

These actions support and encourage local activists from small organisations, who rely on the support of WRI for the international solidarity we so need. We need to work together against war and militarism. We need WRI as activists, movements, and people who want a world free from war - and until we succeed in abolishing war, WRI needs our support too. Please give generously.

 

 

Taya Govreen-Segal

Press release from the Conscientious Objection Association, Turkey

To the press and the public;

While the society is being tried to be made more hostile within each other day by day with the militarist and nationalist speeches that have increased after the termination of the solution process, the militarist pressure on the society is now changing shape. In these days when the militarist language is becoming dominant, the pressure on the society doesn’t remain as just words. In this context; the provisions of the law which have been in force for years but have never been applied in practice, have started to being put into practice.

Refuse to Occupy - 1st December international day of action

During November and December three young Israeli women will refuse to conscript and serve the Israeli occupation. They would rather sit in prison than inflict military rule in the West Bank, and oppress Palestinians.

This week is the International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth

This week is the International Week of Action Against the Militarisation of Youth (14-20 November). There are many actions and events, organised by groups from different countries, happening this week. Please see the list below.

The week is a concerted effort of antimilitarist actions across the world to raise awareness of, and challenge, the ways young people are militarised, and to give voice to alternatives.

1st December: Refuse to occupy - join an international day of action

1st December: Refuse to occupy - international Day of action

Tamar Alon, Atalya Ben Abba and Tamar Ze'evi are facing imprisonment for refusing to serve the Israeli occupation. Support them by joining us on December 1st for an international day of action.

Vigils will take place outside arms manufacturing facilities and other locations calling on governments to stop arming the Israeli occupation rather than profiting from it.

As long as Europe trades with the Israeli weapon industry - the occupation will continue. As long as the US continue to arm Israel and buy its weapons - young Israelis will continue to be imprisoned for refusing to aim these weapons toward civilians.

***
THEY REFUSE to gas civilians, will the US refuse to buy Israeli teargas?
THEY REFUSE to shoot civilians, will EAST ASIA refuse to buy Israel guns?
THEY REFUSE to bomb Gaza, will we call OUR COUNTRIES to refuse to trade drones with Israel?

THEY REFUSE to serve the occupation, WE refuse to profit from it.
***

Conscientious objection declaration from Hilal Demir

We share the conscientious objection declaration by Hilal Demir, first published in Women and Conscientious Objection - An Anthology

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I don't want to live in a world that is sexist, hierarchic, authoritarian, militarist and patriarchal.

I do not want them to give me their system-based school education…

I do not want people to die in wars because they are deceived.

I do not want to have to prove that I am a fully intelligent being and individual, just because I am a woman.

I do not want to brush aside the state's war policies and their lies.

I do not want militaries that train dummies to die in wars…

I do not want people to decide for me about anything without asking me…

I do not want to see militarist concepts and behaviours within our movements…

I do not want to live under patriarchic rules and behaviors that invade my private life.

I do not want antbody to judge people's sexual identities.

I do not want to be ruled by labels such as "mother", "wife", "daughter", "girlfriend" just because I am a woman…

I do not want to live fenced in by borders…

I do not want to kill and be killed…

And.. I am rejecting all of these by listening to my conscience…

Because I WANT to live free and happy, in a world where there is no war, or any kind of violence, anti-authoritarian, without borders.

And you?

Hilal Demir, 2005 Izmir

Risto Miinalainen in jail in Finland

Related peace activists: 

19 years old high school student Risto Miinalainen started to serve his 173 days prison sentence today 4 Oct. A group of 20 people, composed of his friends and activists of Finnish Union of Conscientious Objetors, walked with him from his school to the gates of Helsinki prison through the centre of the city today.

Risto was charged on "refusal from civilian service" (siviilipalveluksesta kieltäytyminen). He was sentenced by Eastern Uusimaa district court (Itä-Uudenmaan käräjäoikeus) on 20 April 2016. Helsinki sppeal court (Helsingin hovioikeus) refused to give him a permission to appeal on 6 July. Majority of Finnish total objectors are sentenced to home detention instead of prison, but Risto chose the prison sentence after reading about the negative experiences of some total objectors who has been sentenced to home detention.

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