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Shaft the Draft!

The Turkish Army’s Gay Porn Archive

by MICHAEL DICKINSON

In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, from his ode ‘If Only She Woulda’:

 “You got a letter today…
Life And love
Has left you shafted
And on top of that
You just got drafted”

Words to strike a chill in many a good-hearted American who can remember the Vietnam War and the forced recruitment of young men to serve as trained killers for the War Machine, or perhaps a grateful sigh of relief that there is no longer mandatory conscription  since the United States discontinued the draft in 1973.  At present it maintains it collossal military force with an all-volunteer personnel.  Unemployment helps.

Not so democratic in some other countries around the world, where regardless of unemployment figures, young males are still legally forced to serve time in the military.  One such country is Turkey.

Compulsory military service in Turkey applies to all male citizens from twenty to forty-one years of age.  The duration is up to fifteen months, when, apart from training as soldiers, conscripts are forced to work for officers’ private needs, including driving, cooking and serving meals in officers’ clubs.

Most young male Turks accept their obligatory call-up with a resigned shrug.  It’s the way things are.  Besides, refusing military service due to conscientious objection is illegal, and speaking publicly against the army or conscription rates as “undermining Turkish people’s zeal towards military” and  “insulting the spirit of the Armed Forces”, both  punishable offences.   Better to bear the term in military hell than face censure and perhaps prison.

Or what about another way out?  For example, homosexuality is perceived as an illness by the Turkish military, and gays and bisexuals are barred from serving.  Why not just claim to be gay, and get away?  Well, it’s not quite as easy as that. Apart from the social stigma of being openly gay in macho-minded Turkey, the top brass want evidence.

All you have to do to get out of doing your military service is to present photographic or video evidence of your participation in homosexal acts with others.  Get shafted and you won’t get drafted!  You might get some friends to help out.  Then after intimate questioning by army officers and perhaps an anal check-up, if they’re convinced you’re gay you’ll be barred from the military.  Yippee!  No more “You’re in the Army now!”  But at what a cost!  And what happened to those sordid pictures the inspecting officers were poring over?  They will be kept in your confidential file in Ankara Military Hospital, which has been described as ‘the biggest state owned gay porn archive in the world.’  Yes, many unfortunate gay brothers have been forced to degrade themselves in such a way rather than endure time in the army.

A recent Turkish film, “Zenne,” movingly depicts one such case.  The man who came out rather than face military service was shot and killed by his conservative father.

Mehmet Tahan, an anti-war protestor, who, although gay, refused to recognize his sexuality as an illness or an excuse to escape service, spent several months as a conscientious objector in prison, where he was tortured and threatened.  In a statement before his arrest Mehmet Tahan said:

“I condemn every kind of violence and believe that joining or condoning violence will only result in new violence and everyone will be responsible for the consequences.  I think that wars caused by power-mongering states are first and foremost a violation of the right to life. The violation of the right to life is a crime against humanity and no international convention or law can justify this crime, regardless of any rationale. I therefore declare that I won’t be an agent of such crime under any circumstances.  I will not serve any military apparatus.”

Well said!  Go shaft your draft!

Michael Dickinson lives in Istanbul.  He can be contacted at michaelyabanji@gmail.com