Military Conscription Reforms in Turkey Essay

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The need for reforms to the conscription process is a way for the government to maintain an effect outlet for the Turkish society to reaffirm its loyalty and respect for the army. This profound and traditional respect for the army has been waning following the high number of military casualties leading to a decline of celebrations held as new recruits' board buses for training (Kuru and Stepan 130). The gathering around bus terminals by families to bid the young men farewell with music and dance is an important social tradition. Moreover, the reforms to the conscription process have been identified as a means of achieving fairness in a system that already favors the drafting of young men based on socio-economic factors (Poutvaara and Andreas 1). This is especially with the likelihood of the military service requiring army recruits seeking to desert to function in non-military functions rather than jailing them, as was the tradition. Such a reform is identified as a means of preventing the disadvantaged youth from being drafted and killed in a war, since they do not have the financial ability to make the payout.

Military theorists also identify the recent drive for reforms to the conscription process as a realization by the government of the failure of the military elite from realizing the socio-political support of the Turkish society. Kuru and Stepan (2012) identify that the military elite has always failed to realize that that no amount of constitutional and political engineering can create sociopolitical support for an institution facing opposition from a society requiring social change (Sinclair-Webb 1). The military service and the conscription process are identified as an important Turkish culture associated with the deep social meanings to an institution that has social power. To the Turks military service implies the definition of masculinity, as conscription and departure to training are associated with a rite of passage and the gaining of masculinity in young men (Sinclair-Webb 1). It is identified that the main cause for the drive for the reforms to conscription despite this respect for the military service is the loss of thousands of lives especially among sons of lower-class families to the PKK. Therefore, though the military is still a well-respected institution in Turkey, the high number of losses to the war with the PKK is the main cause for a review of the conscription process.

Lastly, the need for conscription is not a response to the economic and financial concerns of the Turkish government but it is a response to the chancing social ideology. This research finds that reforms to the conscription system arise not only from the need for professionalism but also from a need to give an alternative to young men not cut out for the army. According to Aizlerli Emre (2012), young men like Gokhan conscripted soon learnt that they were not made for the army (1). These young men often deserted and were jailed in previous years, but with the reforms have an option of joining non-militant service like cooking and clerical roles. Young men like Gokhan without the financial means to make the financial payouts for being exempted from military service have used the homosexual card. The challenge for such men has being in proving the army with real proof that they are homosexuals and deserves to be exempted from service. The problem with this exemption rule is the humiliation for the young men who are required to provide physical proof like photographs to military doctors. This exemption rule has created stigma in many young men for homosexuality in Turkey is not embraced in a largely Islamic state, especially in rural villages away from cities like Ankara and Istanbul.

Overall, the recent reforms to the military conscription process cannot be associated with a need to raise finances to make economic recovery for the government. The reforms are not a military elite strategy to benefit the sons of wealthy families and the politically connected, while marginalizing sons from low-class families. This is because the reform process is a response to changing social ideology that recognizes the trauma of military service to young men and their families. Largely, the reforms are a response to changing social and political forces demanding a more professional military force to maintain Turkey's military power. This professional need arises from the large number of military casualties among young men unprepared for combat.

Works Cited

"Report Says Turkey Prepares to Set Up Professional Units to Fight Terrorism." BBC Monitoring EuropeanOct 07, 2008. ProQuest. Web. 5 May 2013 .

"Turkey: Outgoing Army Chief Supports Shorter Conscription, Full-Time Servicemen." BBC Monitoring EuropeanAug 28, 2010. ProQuest. Web. 5 May 2013 .

"Turkish Army Conscripts Abused, Tortured: Report." The Daily Star. Oct 12, 2012. Web. 6 May 2013.

Azizlerli, Emre. "Proving You're Gay to the Turkish Army." BBC World Service, News Magazine. 25 Mar 2012. Web. 6 May 2013.

Dogra, Ozgur a.P. "The Soldier and the Civilian: Conscription and Military Power in Turkey." Ann Arbor, MI: Proquest Information and Learning Company, 2008. Print.

Esayan, Markar. "Turkey's Military Problem." Today's Zaman, Sunday's Zaman. 21 Sept 2012. Web. 6 May 2013.

Kuru, Ahmet T. "The Rise and Fall of Military Tutelage in Turkey: Fears of Islamism, Kurdism, and Communism." Insight Turkey 14.2 (2012): 37-57. ProQuest. Web.…[continue]

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