This issue of The Broken Rifle provides updates as to the situation for conscientious objectors in certain states, gives examples of useful instances to learn from in past campaigns, and supplies some suggestions in response to the question 'what next' for conscientious objection.
In London on 22nd May, a soldier walking back to his barracks was killed by two people armed with knives. The soldier was a white member of the British army, the attackers black men of the Muslim faith.
The response, witnessed on social and mainstream media, as well as in streets, buses and pubs, has included a torrent of racist, Islamophobic and nationalistic abuse. I noticed with sadness that a friend of mine 'shared' a post on social media from a group called Britain First that read: 'THEY'VE KILLED ONE OF OUR BOYS IN WOOLWICH...KICK THE BASTARDS OUT NOW'.
In December 2001, the last recruits abandoned military barracks across Spain after having completed the final nine months of obligatory military service. In many European states, the end of forced recruitment had been motivated almost exclusively by the military forces' evolution towards global intervention operations, whilst in Spain the system of forced recruitment had collapsed despite years of government efforts.
Conscription have had a very special role in Finnish society. For decades, conscription for males was seen as an integral part of Finnish society, and for the vast majority of young Finnish men it was self evident that they would do military service. In fact, until the early 1990's, almost 90% of them did it. If someone dared to question conscription system, they were usually ridiculed.
Since the beginning of the year, a crackdown on conscientious objectors (and maybe draft evaders in general) has taken place in Greece. The arrest of 44 year old Nikolaos Karanikas in February, followed by that of 37 year old Haralampos Akrivopoulos in March, and of 30 year old Menelaos Exioglou in April, were the first after many years of relative calm. In this period, COs who were total objectors or refused to accept a punitive alternative service were still prosecuted and sentenced (some times in absentia) - to suspended prison sentences, in military courts - but without arrests.
Conscientious objection is little enough dealt with in mainstream political discourse, let alone as the subject for a gallery installation.
So it was encouraging, and probably groundbreaking in a London context, that Filmpro - a "disabled-led digital art agency" - made conscientious objection (and, in particular, conscientious objection in Turkey) the subject of a two-week installation at an east London gallery during May, called COnscription.
Together, we in No to Compulsory Military Service (Egypt) and New Profile (Israel) confirm our support of peace and of conscientious objectors in both countries, re-affirming the human right to freedom of conscience, faith and self-determination.
In Europe, conscription has mostly disappeared and made place for professional armies with high-tech weaponry. This was caused by a transformation of military strategies and a change in the political objectives of defense policy after the end of the Cold War.
We're happy to announce the launch of 'A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System'. This is an update of 'A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the UN Human Rights System', published in 2000, and covers the multitude of developments that have taken place in terms of human rights and conscientious objection since then.
As well as reading it as a book, you can also use the interactive guide online.
Israel has had, since its creation, mandatory military service for both men and women. It prides itself, both internally and externally, on its relatively gender-equal military in which women can both contribute to their society just as men can, and get an opportunity to prove their worth. The apparent gender equality presented by the military provokes a particular feminist perspective on the conscription of women.
President Hugo Chavez systematically militarised Venezuelan society, from young to old. This is perhaps not too surpising when recalling that he came to power as Lieutenant Colonel Chavez in 1998, after leading a coup d’etat in 1992. It was the first time during the democratic period, which began in 1958, that a member of the armed forces was chosen as the country’s leader. Since that time there has been a progressive militarisation of the country, with a special emphasis on young people.