Wages Due Lesbians
Wages Due Lesbians is one of the organizers of today’s International Day of Action to Free Mehmet Tarhan, a young gay Kurdish anarchist man in Turkey who is a conscientious objector against all wars and all military service. He was sentenced in August of this year to four years in prison by a military court for “refusing orders” because he refuses the draft which is compulsory in Turkey and which allows no alternative. We are joining today with many groups; anti-war activists, lesbian and gay groups including in Turkey, conscientious objectors, anarchists, and many others in publicizing what is happening to Mehmet and campaigning for his immediate release from prison.
We support the courageous fight Mehmet is making in the face of great personal hardship, brutality and torture. Since he was jailed last April, he has been attacked and tortured by prisoners and guards, been in solitary confinement and on hunger strike twice, for 28 and 34 days. And we are helping make visible the work of his family most particularly his mother and sister, who have wholeheartedly supported his struggle, and who have also suffered tremendously.
The Turkish military says that homosexuality is a “rotten” illness and disqualifies men from service. But Mehmet has consistently refused to do this: he insists that he is not ill, but the militaristic system that is rotten. One example of the rottenness is the “evidence” required to “prove” homosexuality: military doctors can insist on a forced intimate examination plus visual proof such as a photograph or a video. This is the equivalent of the notorious “virginity test”, which the Turkish police and army have used for decades as a pretext to perpetrate rape and other sexual violence against women, in particular Kurdish women. In his forthcoming trial on December 15, the military may insist on this “option”; they want Mehmet to undergo this judicial rape so they can exempt him from military service on grounds of his homosexuality.
Mehmet is among a growing international movement of gay refuseniks who are saying NO to the military, but not because it discriminates against lesbians and gays. One of these is Stephen Funk, a young gay Marine who served 6 months in prison for refusing to go to Iraq, who said: “I am not an advocate for gay inclusion in the military because I personally do not support military action.” On the examination to “prove” homosexuality he adds, “Obviously it's rape. This is the Turkish government and military!”
Mehmet echoes Stephen when he says, “If they grant gays the ‘right’ to do military service, I won’t be going around saying ‘hey let gay people go do their military service.’ They shouldn’t go. Heterosexuals shouldn’t go either.”
We haven't fought long and hard in the lesbian and gay movement for the “equal right” to kill; this is not our history. It’s not a coincidence that the Stonewall Riots, considered the birth of the modern gay movement, took place in 1969 at the height of the anti-Vietnam war movement. The movement was to challenge all the priorities, distribution of resources, and definitions of who and what is “normal” in order to liberate us all – not to integrate ourselves into a repressive racist death machine.
Some in the mainstream lesbian/gay movement seem to have forgotten this in their rush for respectability at any cost. Mehmet, like many of us, rejects the “right” to be in the military, the “equal right” to kill and be killed. Having an “equal opportunity” military that bombs, tortures and maims people is not a goal that anyone should aim for or celebrate. There is No Pride in Killing others.
Many lesbian women are also mothers, opposing war and occupation along with other mothers like Cindy Sheehan and Celeste Zappala in Philadelphia, because we too have invested years of blood, sweat and tears to raise beautiful human beings that we will not have destroyed. In Philadelphia WDL is part of the Opt Out Campaign, and we have opposed military high schools and Junior ROTC in the public schools, because we don't want young people – gay or straight – and primarily low-income and from communities of color, preyed upon and recruited to be killers or cannon fodder as their main “career option”. Nor do we want resources that are desperately needed in schools and communities to be misused for JROTC programs, or resources desperately needed in our communities to be used for the military.
In cities all around the world today, we say “Free Mehmet Tarhan” because he has taken a stand for all of us. His rejection of the military machine as an out gay man who refuses to be classified as “ill” is the kind of gay visibility we need more of! And which we must support. We call on prominent lesbian and gay people, including politicians and those from high profile organizations to defend Mehmet; those who don’t are upholding a standard of “equality” that is irrelevant to most of us.
Mehmet will go on trial again Dec 15: Please show your support today by signing the petition that we will send to the Turkish embassy, or e-mail or fax the demands listed on the flyer yourself. Thank you.
Wages Due Lesbians
San Francisco 415-626-4114 * Philadelphia 215-848-1120 *
London, England 0207-482-2496 * Barcelona, Spain 934-422-304