Hello dear diary,
I was born in 1989 and have been living in Istanbul since. I have met with the notion of conscientious objection during my high school years; should be 2006 or 2007. There was the newspaper Radikal back then. It was a column by Perihan Mağden, which was about Mehmet Bal, if I recall correctly. I came across with the notion of conscientious objection for the first time in that column. Then I began to think on and read about it.
I declared my conscientious objection at the end of 2009, during an event in the university I was studying at. I knew that I was going to declare it one day but didn’t know that I was going to do it on that day before I attended the event.
I fully used my right to postpone the military service for two years after I had my undergraduate degree on June 2014. I enrolled in a distance education graduate program (which also postpones military service) of a private university on September 2016, with the purpose of not being ‘bakaya’1 for a little while longer. On March 2018, the postponement the graduate program provided for me also ended. I will finally be a deserter starting on 1st of July. To put it more accurately, conscientious objection will be a part of my daily life, after existing only in my world of thought for a very long time.
Conscientious objection is not an act of escape for many people. Not for me either… I think I have the right to continue living the same life I always had, rejecting weapons forced to my hands. I will try to do so, but I know I won’t completely succeed.
This is, dear diary, how my need to write to you has arisen. While my days of ‘being outlaw’ are approaching, I found out that it is hard to seek answers for the questions which increasingly overwhelm my mind. ‘I will be a deserter on 1st of July. Let’s say I came across a GBT2 on 8th of July. Will they be able to see that I am a deserter?’, ‘In a huge city like Istanbul, I often use public transportation and encounter a lot of police in my daily life. How are my life, my mental state going to be affected? Am I going to be more agitated? Am I going to be more vulnerable?’, ‘When will I have to quit my registered job? Will I ever have to quit?’, ‘How much is my freedom of travel going to be restricted?’…
There could be many more… There are no answers for some of them. Some can be answered by gathering narratives of other conscientious objectors. My purpose of writing is twofold. First, I want to keep a compact record of what a conscientious objector goes through. Second, I will try to add to the visibility of conscientious objection movement which had become less and less so as a result of oppressive measures the government is taking.
Things I will tell you will of course be personal experiences, dear diary. But doing this, I hope, will also allow me to touch on the questions worrying a lot of people and the questions which had never come to minds.
1. ‘Bakaya’ is a special term in Turkish for being a deserter before the start of military service.
2. The abbreviation for criminal record check that Turkish police forces do on streets.