Published by:KP Daily News
Police pounced on three anti-military activists yesterday as they attempted to unfurl a banner demanding the right to conscientiously object from army during a military parade marking the 31st anniversary of the TRNC.
The ‘Initiative For Conscientious Objection’ (VRI) had sought to highlight the absence of a legal right to abstain from military service in north Cyprus by opening a banner reading, “Peace is our duty, conscientious objection is our right” during the military parade at the Dr Fazık Küçük Boulevard in Nicosia. The activists were forcefully removed from the parade area by police and taken into nearby toilets where they were ordered to strip for a “body search”.
Conscientious objectors Rahme Veziroğlu, Hazal Yolga and Halil Karapaşaoğlu were then detained by the police until after the parade had finished. Speaking to KP Daily News, the activists said that they were ordered to take off their clothes for body search and that they had been “harassed by the police” who allegedly used “disproportionate force” during their detention. The three were forced to remain in custody for some time but were not charged with breaking the law.
They say they were aware they were being trailed by police before the parade. As they were led away from the parade area, police apparently told the activists, “We know who you are and we don’t share your opinion, therefore we are intervening”. One of the activists, Rahme Veziroğlu’s said her audio recorder had been confiscated by police, who then deleted all it files, including personal files in the recorder’s memory.
Hazal Yolga, another of the activists, said she was forced to provide the password for her mobile phone under threat that the phone would broken if she didn’t. The activists complained that during a similar ceremony on 29 October, nationalist groups had opened banners with slogans against the right to conscientiously object, and had faced no action from the police.
They questioned why police had not allowed pro-conscientious objectors to express their views in a similar way. “The groups freely raised their banners, which read ‘military service is our honor and duty’, ‘conscientious objection is not a right’ while police just looked on,” one of the activists said, adding: “These double standard by the police”. The activists claim wide support on social media, where they sat police action has been “condemned” by many activists and citizens. Speaking to Kıbrıs Postası VRI activist Halil Karapaşaoğlu said “If there is anyone in the parliament who believes in democracy and freedom of thought, they should immediately legalize the right to conscientious objection.
They may not realize it now but in 20 or 50 years time they will be considered as people who destroyed the freedom of thought”.