Dear sisters and brothers,
We recently sent you Action Alerts urging support for Mehmet Tarhan, a conscientious objector and a gay man, detained since 8 April in the military prison of Sivas (Turkey), where he has been brutally attacked (http://www.refusingtokill.net/Turkey/ReleaseMehmet.htm ).
When Mr Tarhan appeared before a military court on 9 June, the judge released him – a great victory, including for the international movement that is supporting him. But the military immediately detained him again, in open violation of international law, and sent him back to Sivas military prison. He now faces another trial on 4 August, so your support is urgently needed now, to insist that all the charges against Mr Tarhan be dropped and that he be released immediately from jail.
Mr Tarhan went on a 28-day hunger-strike in protest against his treatment in prison, and on 21 June won his demands: a cell of his own to protect him from abuse by other prisoners, to receive his mail regularly, access to books, to make his own tea, a TV, and an examination by civilian physicians who visited him and declared him in good health. The necessary treatment following his hunger strike has now begun.1
So far we have received copies of protest letters to the Turkish authorities from Argentina, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, UK and US. Notably, Stephen Funk, a gay man who was the first US soldier to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq, wrote to the Turkish government (http://www.refusingtokill.net/Turkey/MehmetFunkLetter.htm ). And there have been demonstrations in Frankfurt and Athens. On 12 July, day of a court hearing, Payday and Wages Due Lesbians organised protests in front of the Turkish embassy and consulates in London, New York and Venice. That day, a parliamentary question about Mehmet was submitted by Vittorio Agnoletto, Member of the European Parliament to the Council of Europe and the European Commission about Mehmet’s case.
We, and others, have lobbied Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), and many have declared their support. Given the negotiations for Turkey’s entry into the European Union, MEPs’ intervention is crucial in securing Mr Tarhan’s safety.
In Turkey there have been marches for Mr Tarhan on Harbiye military and Incirlik air bases; banners, flyers and chanting at May day rallies in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Malatya; readings from his prison letter at the Izmir anti-militarism festival; letter writing campaigns; press conferences/demonstrations; and support in the court itself. Many organizations are involved: antimilitarists, lesbian & gay, women’s and human rights groups, anarchists. We must not forget that behind the persecution of brother Tarhan are the immense, and hidden, number of draft evaders – 350,000 – many refusing to serve in Turkey’s war against Kurdish people.2
Mehmet Tarhan and his supporters in Turkey need to know that people are organising internationally to protect his life and have his right to conscientious objection upheld. We urge you to write letters or postcards to:
Finally, we urge you to write (again) to the Turkish authorities, pressing for his immediate and unconditional release. We rely on him continuing his determined campaign against war, free from restriction and persecution.
1 War Resisters International, CO-alert, 22 June 2005
2 Quaker Council for European Affairs: The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe: A Review of the Current Situation, 2005.
Mr Trevor Stevens, Executive Secretary, European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
Olli Rehn, Commissioner for Enlargement Policy of the European Union
Alvaro Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe
Michael Cashman, President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights
to your MEP
– a list of is available at
28 June 2005
Re: Conscientious Objector Mehmet Tarhan, illegally detained by Turkish army
We write to you about Mehmet Tarhan, a gay man and conscientious objector, detained since 8 April in the military prison of Sivas, Turkey. Encouraged by prison staff, other prisoners have repeatedly beaten, humiliated and threatened Mr Tarhan with death, even in front of his lawyer. When Mr Tarhan went before the military court on June 9, he could not walk properly and his body was covered in bruises.
As you know, the judge released Mr Tarhan because he had ”already spent two months in prison, which is about the time he would have to serve in prison if finally sentenced”1. However, he was returned to detention, first to Sivas military hospital, and then to Sivas military prison.
Mr Tarhan should never have been jailed in the first place. It is a scandal that he had to go on hunger strike for 28 days in order to win elementary human rights like equal treatment with, and protection from, other prisoners, and examination and treatment by independent doctors.
The Turkish military and civilian authorities must guarantee his safety. An independent inquiry must establish who is responsible for inciting and perpetrating violent acts against Mr Tarhan while in detention, and they must be brought to justice.
We are outraged to hear that Mr Tarhan, having again refused to serve, is to be put on trial a second time, on 12 July.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in the case of another Turkish conscientious objector, Osman Murat Ulke, stated that any detention of a conscientious objector after an initial detention following a first act of refusal is "arbitrary, being contrary to article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights"3.
Mr Tarhan is exercising his right to conscientious objection under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkey is a party. And the Committee of Ministers to Member States of the Council of Europe Regarding Conscientious Objection to Compulsory Military Service states that, "Anyone liable to conscription for military service who, for compelling reasons of conscience, refuses to be involved in the use of arms, shall have the right to be released from the obligation to perform such service”4.
This cycle of detention, torture, trial, mock release and detention is illegal and must be stopped. The judge’s ruling of 9 June must be upheld.
Mr Olli Rehn, Commissioner for Enlargement Policy of the European Union, has pledged to take up Mr Tarhan’s case. Other MEPs, including Michael Cashman, the President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, Caroline Lucas from the Greens and Vittorio Agnoletto from the United Left have already made representations to the Turkish government. Amnesty International considers Mehmet Tarhan to be a prisoner of conscience.
We demand the immediate recognition of conscientious objector status and unconditional release for Mehmet Tarhan and all other Turkish conscientious objectors, including Ersan Ugur Gor, Erdem Yalcinkaya, Mustafa Seyhoglu and Hasan Cimen who were arrested following Mr Tarhan’s trial.
Yours for refusing to kill,
Dean Kendall Payday US
Michael Kalmanovitz Payday UK
War Resisters International, CO-alert, 10 June 2005
Olli Rehn, Commissioner
for enlargement policy of the European Union