Onur Erem
Solidarity with turkish conscientious objectors !
Article published on 23 March 2016
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Turkish court:

We think that your thought isn’t a thought – so you can’t benefit from freedom of thought!

Turkish courts have released the detailed ruling against Yannis Vasilis Yaylali, the conscientious objector from Turkey who was convicted for violating a highly controversial penal code, Article 318 – “alienating public from military service”. The details show that Turkish courts are doing their best at philosophy in order to sentence Yaylali to 7 months and 15 days of prison. The court simply argued that Yaylali’s thoughts are not real thoughts, thus he can’t benefit from freedom of thought!

In the ruling Uludere Criminal Court of First Instance on 6 January 2016, the court that put on trial Yaylali for his columns and articles on news website demokrathaber.com, argued that “Although Yaylali tells that war is bad and harmful, what he have written is raw information. We have noticed that Yaylali didn’t read and research enough about the issue that he’s writing about – he has some information about conscientious objection but he didn’t offer any alternative on what will happen after the armies are abolished”, although Yaylali didn’t call for abolishment of the armies but rather abolishment of the conscription in his articles.


The court claimed that to talk about thought, there must be thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis – and went on with their claims by saying that Yaylali’s articles doesn’t contain any of them. “Thus”, the court declared, “The discourses that are built on raw information can’t be regarded as ideas or thoughts. And because there’s no thought in Yaylali’s criminal act, he can’t benefit from freedom of thought”.

The court also ruled that “It is clear that wars are bad. But it’s also clear that in today’s international system of states, the states need armies in order to provide public order”, without referring to the 22 countries which doesn’t have a standing army.


While the court argued that Article 318 wasn’t violating international treaties, Turkey has lost many cases in the ECHR because of the article. “Turkey is the only country in Europe which doesn’t recognize conscientious objection. There must be a civilian alternative to military conscription” says Turkey’s ex-judge in the ECHR, Riza Turmen. Turmen tells that he has given law drafts during his period in the Turkish parliament, but the government didn’t even discuss it. “As long as Turkey doesn’t recognize conscientious objection, Turkey will lose these cases in ECHR” says Riza.


Yannis Vasilis Yaylali commented on the decision by saying “Courts can’t be places which can give decisions on what can be regarded as thoughts! The judges didn’t even listen to me during my defence. They had already decided on the ruling before the hearing. The courts in Turkey became tools of government, thus tools of war. They want to silence all the voices which are against wars and the war in Kurdistan in particular”.


Gökhan Soysal, Co-president of the Conscientious Objection Association, was also planning to attend the hearing. But he couldn’t be there because of the curfew that the government declared in the region around district Uludere. “The war and these curfews took the right to fair trial from Yaylali” says Soysal, “Uludere is the district where the state committed the massacre which killed 34 civilians with bombs dropped by fighter jets. It is absurd that Yaylali is convicted while the state itself is alienating the people from military service by such massacres. But the main motivation is to oppress the critical voices”.


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