Turkish gay conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan, now on 29th day of hunger strike in military prison
Mehmet Tarhan was brutally assaulted by guards at Sivas military prison on Friday 30 September when he refused to have his hair cut. Mr Ali Düler, a prisoner who came to his aid, was also assaulted. Mr Tarhan said:
"Today, at 3pm non-commissioned officer Hilmi Savluk [prison warden], accompanied by three or four guards, told me that my hair was to be cut. Then seven or eight people using force and torture cut my hair and beard but they could not cut my moustache. Also a friend [Mr Ali Düler] from the ward faced a harsh intervention from the guards. After the "hair cut" torture, there is pain in my head, in both my hands, in my left arm because they stood on it, pain in my left foot, injuries and bruises on my arm and legs. I cannot turn my neck around because of pain in my face and neck ". Mr Tarhan has been on hunger strike since then – a month ago. Please urgently tell the Turkish authorities you support his protest. (See model letter below)
Background: In 2001, Mr Tarhan, declared his total conscientious objection to all wars and to any alternative to military service. He refused to be discharged from the military on the basis of his homosexuality, which the Turkish authorities view as an illness, saying this is "an expression of the rottenness of the militarist system itself." In order to certify men as gay the “rotten” military authority requires not only a manual examination by doctors but also a photo or a video of applicants being sexually penetrated. The person applying for exemption as a gay man has to be the one penetrated – the one penetrating is not classified as gay by the military!
Since 8 April 2005 he has been detained at Sivas military prison. On 10 August he was sentenced to four years imprisonment on two charges of “insubordination before the unit” (article 88 of the Military Criminal Code). Even after he has served his sentence he will face mock release, and another cycle of detention, torture and trial. He is appealing his conviction.
This is not the first time Mr Tarhan has suffered prison violence: in April 2005, other prisoners who were encouraged by prison staff beat him. After a 28-day hunger strike in protest against that and other abuse, he won many of his demands, including the right to have a cell of his own to ensure his protection. However, he has since been regularly put in isolation by the prison authorities, because he refuses to act as a soldier and obey arbitrary and illegal orders.
Mr Tarhan’s fight for recognition of his right to conscientious objection is supported by numerous human rights, lesbian, gay and other organisations in many countries, as well as by MEPs. Payday and Wages Due Lesbians have been campaigning in Europe and in the United States to free Mr Tarhan.
Wages Due Lesbians/Payday
PO Box 287 London NW6 5QU England Tel 0207 482 2496 Fax 020 7209 4761
PO Box 11795, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101, US; Tel: (215) 848 1120 Fax (215) 848 1130
MODEL LETTER TO:·
Sivas Military Prison fax : (+90) 346- 225 39 15·
General Staff fax: (+90) 312 - 425 08 13 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Presidency of Turkey Republic fax: (+90) 312 427 13 30 email: email@example.com·
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan fax: +90 312 417 0476 email: firstname.lastname@example.org·
Minister of the Interior Abdulkadir Aksu fax: + 90 312 418 1795 email: email@example.com·
Minister for Justice Cemil Çiçek fax: +90 312 419 3370 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are outraged to learn that once again, Mr Mehmet Tarhan, total conscientious objector, was assaulted by prison guards in Sivas military prison on Friday 30 September.
Despite significant injuries, Mr Tarhan was seen only by military doctors who “examined” him for 10 minutes and decided there was nothing wrong with him.
He is now on hunger strike, demanding to be seen by civilian doctors and that the guards who assaulted him be prosecuted. We understand that Mr Tarhan’s solicitor has begun legal proceedings against these guards. Mr Tarhan’s friend, Mr Ali Düler, who came to his defence, was also beaten and injured.
We demand that you urgently allow civilian doctors to visit Mr Tarhan, and that the guards who committed these illegal acts of violence against him and Mr Düler be prosecuted. We hold the military and civilian authorities responsible for the safety and welfare of both Mehmet Tarhan and Ali Düler.
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. 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”.
Mr Tarhan is a prisoner of conscience. He has committed no crime and should be released immediately.
Olli Rehn, Commissioner for enlargement policy of the European Union·
Alvaro Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe·
Trevor Stevens, Executive Secretary, Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Council of Europe, ·
Michael Cashman MEP, President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, ·
MEPs: Adamos Adamou, Vittorio Agnoletto, Giovanni Berlinguer, Fausto Bertinotti, Emma Bonino, Paulo Casaca, Giulietto Chiesa, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Richard Falbr, Antonio Di Pietro, Hélène Flautre, Monica Frassoni, Lili Gruber, Jean Lambert, Enrico Letta, Caroline Lucas, Helmuth Markov, Erik Meijer, Luisa Morgantini, Roberto Musacchio, Marco Pannella, Dimitris Papadimoulis, Tobias Pflüger, Miguel Portas, Miloslav Ransdorf, Raul Romeva, Heide Ruehle, Eva-Britt Svensson, Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, Sahra Wagenknecht, Gabi Zimmer·
Senate of Italy: Fiorello Cortiana, Tana de Zulueta
Parliament of Spain: Begoña Lasagabster·
And to your MEP – a list of is available at http://wwwdb.europarl.eu.int/ep6/owa/p_meps2.repartition?ilg=EN&iorig=home·
Send copies to the Turkish Embassy in your country
Turkish embassies can be found at http://www.mfa.gov.tr/MFA/Ministry/TurkishRepresentations/·
Please also send a copy of your letter and messages to Payday email@example.com. We'll pass them onto Mehmet Tarhan.
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